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This State Labor Conference Will Vote On Using Giant Rats To Sniff Out Landmines

The motion will likely fail.

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The New South Wales Labor conference will vote on whether it should be party policy for the Australian Army to use giant rodents to sniff out land mines.

Pring Samrang / Reuters

The proposal is one of many platform amendments set to be debated and voted on at the NSW State Labor Conference at Sydney Town Hall on July 29 and 30. It suggests that NSW Labor adopt the following as policy:

"That the Australian Army should adopt the method of clearing land mines and other forms of dangerous ordinance pioneered by Belgian scientist Bart Weetjens using large trained African pouched rodents to find and expose land mines.

Weetjens found, using a rigorous training program, that gerbils and other rodents can be trained to detect in-the-field land mines using their acute sense of smell."

The motion was brought forward by the Stockton branch and the Newcastle Federal Electorate Council of the Labor party.

It falls under the Australia And The World policy committee – the same committee which has brought forward a controversial motion urging the next Labor government to recognise Palestine.

Weetjens is the founder of APOPO, a Belgian not-for-profit that trains Gambian pouched rats to sniff out explosives and detect tuberculosis.

The rats have a superior sense of smell and are too light to set off the explosives.

The APOPO website states that no rats have died as part of the detection work and that it costs approximately €6,000 ($8850 AUD) to completely train one rat.

"Once trained and in the field they have a 100% success rate and so far there have been no casualties as they are not heavy enough to trigger the explosive," the Labor conference motion reads.

"Compare the cost of training an Australian soldier for mine sweeping and the casualties sustained in Afghanistan alone."

But the policy committee has recommended the giant rodents motion be rejected, saying: "This method is not suitable for use in the clearing and disposal of improvised explosive devices (IEDs)."

BuzzFeed News understands the most likely fate of the proposal is to be rejected as part of an omnibus package of non-controversial votes, without actually being debated at the conference.

BuzzFeed News has contacted NSW Labor for comment.

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at

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