Major Overhaul of Environmental Law

8th December 2022

The Australian Government has released its response to the Samuel Review of the EPBC Act, a major piece of legislative reform for Australia’s central environment protection and biodiversity legislation. This development brings us one step closer to a better solution for streamlining permits for musical instruments containing endangered species.

The EPBC Act in its current form allows permits to be granted for musical instruments containing a CITES listed species, such as Brazilian Rosewood or Ivory, where a permit is required for international travel. It does not allow a consolidated permit to be created, using the ‘Musical Instrument Certificate’ model developed over the past few years and led particularly by the US. This model is preferable for travelling musicians because it is designed for musical instruments, and can be used for multiple movements across borders.

In response to the Samuel Review recommendation to improve permit processes for wildlife trade, the Government’s reponse “will reduce unnecessary prescription and administrative processes for wildlife trade permits, ensuring ongoing protection of species and consistency with international obligations. Excessive administration of the wildlife trade permitting process creates additional costs for individuals, businesses and government.”

Recommendation 20: Amend the EPBC Act to ensure wildlife permitting requirements align with Australia’s international obligations related to:
a. species listed under Appendix I and II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (Bonn Convention)
b. import permitting requirements for Appendix II listed species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
c. requirements to ensure the humane transport of live fish and live invertebrates.

Response: The government will streamline and improve wildlife trade permit requirements to retain consistency with international obligations, including welfare standards for live specimens.

The AMA works constructively with members, international partners and the Australian Government on consultation around CITES proposals. Most recently we were actively involved in discussions about Pernambuco, the proposal that was amended at the CITES CoP to reduce the impact on trade and travelling musicians but continue the important work of protecting the species. The AMA has raised the issue of Musical Instrument Certificates with the CITES Management Authority, the Minister for the Environment, and in a submission to the National Cultural Policy consultation.

Permits are currently required for a small number of species that are found in musical instruments, one example is Ivory which for obvious reasons has the highest level of protection. Ivory has been banned since 1976 but still exists in older musical instruments and accessories such as bagpipes, stringed instruments and bows, and pianos.

The systems for certifying and granting permits for musical instruments do affect the future of endangered species regulation. As more species become CITES listed, and some listed under Appendix II could become listed under Appendix I, there may be situations with particular species commonly used in instruments (Pernambuco, for example, may come up again) where a permit is required to travel or trade. One of the strongest arguments against the Pernambuco proposal this year was the major disruption to musicians and the industry if all bows required a permit to travel, which would affect all stakeholders including individual musicians, travelling groups such as orchestras, manufacturers, professionals involved in certification, and government agencies such as Customs and CITES Management Authorities. This is due to the current state of certification and permit processes. If these can be streamlined and improved, it may be possible to offer a higher level of protection to endangered species with minimal disruption to musicians and the industry. The final proposal, accepted by CoP19, called for work to be done on creating a system to certify bows.

Media Release (Tanya Plibersek) | Government Response to the Samuel Review | Latest statement from international music stakeholders (improving MICs)