With our cessation policy now in its fourth year of successful operation, we are committed to promoting our position, how it could work for other businesses in a practical sense and also how it is evolving as we respond to the industry and regulatory environment, both here and abroad.

Our most recent initiative (already announced) is our commitment to further enhance our policy by adopting the principles of the recently legislated approach of the United Kingdom in The Ivory Act 2018. The very simplest way to describe this improvement is our decision to further restrict our de minimis exemptions by never dealing in an object that has any more than approximately a 10% ivory component by volume. This update to our stance will be reflected in our formal policy document that will be completed by April 1st, at the latest. This policy remains open for any auction house to adopt but regrettably, to date, there has been no uptake.

Nevertheless, our recent policy review and update got us thinking once again about how the local auction industry could be encouraged to come on board, even if that stopped short at the adoption of our policy. What emerged from this thinking was what best-practice should at least look like when auction houses (or anyone for that matter) are dealing in ivory.

To be clear, whilst the Australian Government doesn’t regulate domestic ivory trade, it remains illegal to possess ivory that has not been imported legally. This generates two paths for discussion; firstly, ivory that an auction house is well aware may be required to be exported to an international purchaser and secondly, ivory that is more likely to remain in domestic hands.

For international export situations the law is clear; if the item is intended for export the Australian Government’s ‘Wildlife Statutory Declaration’ must be completed. Completion of this document is extremely helpful in providing reassurance that the item was in fact imported in to Australia legally. Best-practice for the export of ivory is therefore clear but what of ivory that is traded but not exported?

At present, for domestically traded ivory, the declaration approach is not required to be completed by law but it remains that at any time, anyone trading in ivory domestically, may be requested by an Australian Government official to provide this information.

It follows then, that auctioneers, dealerships and consultants trading in these materials, without adopting this best-practice (The Australian Government declaration document designed to meet Australia’s CITES obligations) run the risk of handling illegal material.

It seems logical to us here at Leonard Joel that, to ensure our remaining limited domestic trade is legal, we too must adopt the ‘Wildlife Statutory Declaration’ approach to ensure we identify anything that was not imported legally and by doing so protect our clients (whether the seller, the buyer or anyone in between) from inadvertently breaching our domestic laws.

Leonard Joel will now be formally adopting this best-practice approach as a compliment to our existing policy and press the case that if auctioneers, dealers, consultants and all intermediaries to a transaction are not following this best-practice verification, all parties to the transaction run the risk of breaching Australian laws.

JOHN ALBRECHT
Managing Director / National Head of Collections