License article

Indonesian feathers left unruffled after 'Galahgate'

So-called “Galahgate”, potentially another cockfight between Indonesia and Australia, has been resolved with barely a screech.

In November an Indonesian military official reportedly received only a warning when caught trying to smuggle five galahs and two native parrots out of Australia on a decommissioned C-130 Hercules aircraft due to leave Richmond RAAF base in Sydney's west.

The Abbott government has confirmed, in answers to Senate questions from the Greens, that the would-be smuggler dodged potentially serious penalties, including as much as 10 years in jail.

Liberal senator Mathias Cormann said the official had no approved export permit from the Environment Department as required by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Senator Cormann confirmed the act provides no diplomatic immunity for those caught smuggling wildlife.

Even so, the Environment Department was not consulted about imposing fines, warnings or other charges, with Australia's Customs serving instead as the “investigating agency”, he said.


“There is no excuse for the Abbott government failing to consult the Environment Department when our national environment law has been breached," said Senator Larissa Waters, the Greens' environment spokeswoman.

“It's important that these rules are enforced fairly and consistently so that any potential future offenders are deterred, saving native animals from being smuggled in cruel, cramped conditions.”

Canberra's relations with Jakarta have been strained over issues including allegations of spying on Indonesian leaders and Australia's efforts to combat asylum seekers arriving by boat.

Australia's enforcement agencies have issued more than 17,000 seizure and caution notices under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in the past five financial years, although the rate has dropped sharply.

During the 2012-13 fiscal year, 2097 such notices were issued, down from 5242 in 2008-09, Senator Cormann said, without detailing the reason for the drop.