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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2523

Senator TAMBLING (8.47 p.m.) —Senator Coulter refers to the stance taken by the opposition on this point, and it is important to recognise that industry has asked for this clause. It would take a very powerful case for the minister to grant an exemption to a whole species, which is taxon. It is no good for the Democrats to say that a special variety of wheat may be removed. The minister just cannot withdraw a variety; he has to withdraw the whole taxon.

  The coalition is satisfied that the industry itself would have to make a request to the advisory committee, which would then make a recommendation to the minister. We are also pleased that the government has picked up the recommendation of the Senate committee and there will be a 30 day public discussion period before the minister makes any decision. I think it is important that I read into the record a media release of the Grains Council of Australia dated 16 May 1994. It is headed, `More investment in plant breeding—farmer rights retained', and it states:

The Plant Breeders' Rights Bill (PBR)(1994) currently before Federal Parliament has the potential to substantially increase investment in plant breeding of grain crop and pasture seed varieties, according to Grains Council of Australia (GCA) Acting Executive Director, Jock Kreitals.

  The Grains Council's comments were made at a hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs which is undertaking an inquiry into the Plant Breeders' Rights Bill at the request of the Democrats.

  The GCA, the Seed Industry Association of Australia and the Plant Variety Rights Advisory Committee all presented strong cases in support of the current PBR Bill at the Senate Committee hearing.

  The PBR Bill provides for the opportunity to capture royalties on harvested production of grain varieties covered by plant breeders' rights if breeders have not had the opportunity to exercise their rights on the seed of a variety, Mr Kreitals said.

`Importantly, and contrary to some reports, the Bill also explicitly retains the rights of farmers to save their own seed for subsequent years' sowing from varieties covered by plant breeders' rights', he said.

The proposed new legislation does provide the option to seek an exemption to farmers' rights if there is a clear advantage in doing so. The GCA's current position (Grains Week 1994) however is that no grain crop species (wheat, coarse grains, grain legumes and oilseeds) or pasture seed species be included as exemptions to the farmer saved seed provision.

Mr Kreitals said `this option would only be exercised if a producer body, such as the GCA, requested the Minister to provide an exemption by Regulation after extensive industry consultation'.

The PBR Bill is expected to pass through Parliament in early June.

Well, it is late June but, other than that, it is interesting to see this position being adopted.