Additional Comments from Labor Senators
Labor Senators note that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Amendment (Prohibition of Live Imports of Primates for Research)
Bill 2015 does not seek to end primate testing for research purposes in
We recognise that while many submissions to the inquiry focussed on this
broader issue, the Bill only proposes to deny the importation of non-human
primates (NHPs) for research purposes.
Labor Senators contend that while the Bill would not decrease the
incidence of testing, it would have negative impacts on the genetic diversity
of the national breeding population and potentially compromise the efficacy of
This is supported by the submission from the National Health and Medical
Research Council which states:
...in order for the colonies to be sustainable into the future,
there may be times when some importation of NHPs is required to:
(i) maintain genetic diversity and
avoid problems of inbreeding within small colonies
(ii) supply animals, or provide
for rapid expansion of the colonies, to meet urgent need, if one arises.
Labor Senators recognise the use of non-human primates continues to be
an important avenue for medical research globally.
While some submissions to the inquiry pointed to the recent decision by
the United States National Institutes of Health to cease its existing
chimpanzee research program to justify an end to primate importation, we note
the advice of Associate Professor James Bourne who stated that:
The research community was very happy to not have chimps used
for research anymore. However, the United States is still the largest user in
the world of non-human primates for research. They have over seven national
On this matter, Professor Kelso from the National Health and Medical
Research Council also testified that she was 'not aware of any chimpanzee
research in Australia'.
Labor is committed to a high standard of animal welfare and will
continue to oppose anything that causes unnecessary harm to animals. To this
end, Federal Labor recently announced a policy to ban the importation of
products tested on animals.
However, Labor Senators recognise there are significant medical advances
that could not have been made without the aid of medical testing on non-human
Labor Senators acknowledge the importance of a world-class medical
research regime which maintains strict animal welfare standards. On this
matter, Associate Professor James Bourne testified that:
We are under the most tightly regulated system already. We
have what is given to be world-standard facilities for our non-human primates.
The main funding body equivalent to the National Health and Medical Research
Council in the United States is the NIH—the National Institutes of Health. They
have looked at our facilities, because we have collaborative grants, and have
put ours as above world standard. Our animals have access to outside runs,
which is well above anything that you would see on an international framework.
Labor Senators are persuaded by the expert evidence provided to the
inquiry that, while the Bill would have no impact on the incidence of medical
research on non-human primates, it would reduce the genetic diversity of the
national breeding population and potentially compromise the health of individual
animals in the process.
Thus, we do not support the Bill in its current form.
However, Labor Senators may be willing to reconsider the Bill if an
amendment were made to provide an exemption for the three government-funded registered
Labor Senators contend this amendment would ensure high animal welfare
standards are maintained without compromising the health and genetic diversity of
national breeding colonies.
Urquhart Senator the Hon Lisa
Deputy Chair Senator
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