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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 3924


Mr TUCKEY(8.57) —I am quite happy to congratulate the Government on eventually getting its act together and introducing the Plant Variety Rights Bill to the Department.


Mr Gayler —You started 15 years ago.


Mr TUCKEY —We started 15 years ago and to my knowledge at that time the honourable member for Leichhardt was not in the Department, so he did not know much about what was going on.


Mr O'Keefe —He knows more than you do now.


Mr TUCKEY —What a stupid thing to say. Does he know more than I do? He is on the back bench and I am on the front bench-


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The honourable member for Burke and the honourable member for Leichhardt will cease interjecting.


Mr TUCKEY —The point is that at that time the legislation was introduced to the Parliament. It was laid on the table quite properly because it was quite a controversial piece of legislation and we knew there were concerns in the community. It was laid down for six months so that the community, the then Labor Opposition and the Australian Democrats could view it. At the end of that period, certain alterations were made.


Mr Gayler —A decade and a half of inaction!


Mr TUCKEY —For Christ's sake, shut up! You are a fool.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for O'Connor is outrageous.


Mr TUCKEY —I am not outrageous compared with that man over there. He is a fool.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member shall not shout oaths in the chamber. The Chair is placed in an incredibly difficult position. Many members-I expect all members-find what the honourable member has just said grossly offensive.


Mr TUCKEY —Then I will withdraw it.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I do not think that a withdrawal is either possible or satisfactory. What the honourable member just said was disgraceful.


Mr TUCKEY —Well, I hope you mention that to the Leader of the House because he did the same thing. Could you please control that person over there.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I think that rather than withdraw the honourable member should apologise to the House.


Mr TUCKEY —I will apologise to everybody for using that expression but if you, Mr Deputy Speaker, are not prepared to deal with the honourable member opposite as you would deal with honourable members on this side-


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member may continue his speech.


Mr TUCKEY —Thank you. I am sorry about that, I am genuinely sorry, but-


Mr Gayler —Tell us--


Mr TUCKEY —Cut it out. If smiling Sam over there, who does nothing in this place, wants to keep it up, I am quite happy--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member might just get on with the debate on the Plant Variety Rights Bill.


Mr TUCKEY —We will both assume our roles, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will speak; you control him. I will repeat the history of this situation: The legislation was put before the Parliament. There was ample time for consideration-six months. At the end of six months it was brought back and it was then that the Labor Opposition and the Australian Democrats found it necessary to send it off to a committee. Apparently they lacked the wit and the will to consider the matter prior to that. They did not understand enough about the legislation.

When it came back, the original legislation excluded cereal grains because at that stage the wheat industry thought, because of the propaganda that had been put out by certain people-I will refer to that shortly-that it was to its disadvantage to be included. In the six months the people in the industry had to consider it, because they were logical people they came to the government of the day and said: `We would like to have it included'. That was the industry's decision. The people in that industry stood to lose or gain by it. The reality was that the legislation was blocked. Eventually, of course, it was put to the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources, which recommended in its favour; but it still languished until the Opposition, through the effects of Senator Hill, brought in a private member's Bill. Apparently, that embarrassment to the Government eventually caused it to come forward with or produce this legislation that we are debating tonight.


Mr Gayler —Tell us--


Mr TUCKEY —Mr Deputy Speaker, he is at it again. I am quite happy to spend five minutes of my speech dealing with that idiot. I will deal with that idiot and a few of his mates from Queensland.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for O'Connor will not refer to other members as idiots. The honourable member for O'Connor will continue with his speech. Other honourable members should cease interjecting.


Mr TUCKEY —I would welcome your protection, Mr Deputy Speaker. If I am not going to get it, I will deal with them myself.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for O'Connor will not deal with anyone in this chamber.


Mr Scholes —Can't you take it? You can't shut up for a minute when someone else is talking.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Minister does not help the proceedings.


Mr TUCKEY —You want to interrupt, do you, punch drunk?


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for O'Connor will withdraw that remark.


Mr TUCKEY —I withdraw.


Mr Scholes —The honourable gentleman will withdraw and apologise.


Mr TUCKEY —I have withdrawn, and that is all you get from me. Keep out of the argument.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for O'Connor is really about to get himself, in the words of Madam Speaker today, a holiday. He can proceed with the debate in a proper parliamentary fashion, or it might be best if he resumed his seat. Let us get on with the debate. Other honourable members might cease interjecting, seeing that the honourable member for O'Connor has become sensitive about this matter. I am interested to note that he was not so sensitive this afternoon when I drew his attention to the fact that he should not interject on the Treasurer all the time in the debate. The honourable member for O'Connor might get on with the debate and cease attacking other members and using unparliamentary language. Other honourable members might cease encouraging the honourable member for O'Connor by interjecting.


Mr TUCKEY —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I welcome again your interest in protecting--


Mr Humphreys —I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I do not recall the honourable member withdrawing.


Mr TUCKEY —I certainly did withdraw.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for O'Connor may proceed.


Mr TUCKEY —Returning to the legislation, which I am most anxious to debate at length, I point out that there are circumstances in which people involved in the business of breeding plants in Australia could be well advanced in their efforts to improve Australia's productivity and our balance of payments and to reduce the disastrous circumstances confronting us in that area had the Government, the one-time Opposition, used the six months available to it when the legislation originally lay on the table to satisfy itself about the concerns about which it apparently has been able to satisfy itself because in fact the legislation before us tonight has very few differences from the original legislation.

What we are talking about here is the business of incentive. I have read all sorts of criticisms over this period. I was involved in seminars and other things in looking at the pros and cons of this legislation originally. I listened with care to the critics because I recognised it as a sensitive area. I just could not be convinced by any of the critics as to what they were even talking about. It seemed that they were willing to protect plant varieties and to demand the rights of plant varieties that did not even exist. We know that this legislation is about the future. It is prospective; it is not retrospective.

I received a letter today, and no doubt other members did. One of the things it says is basically that the earth and its resources are and should be recognised as the heritage and common property of mankind from which all are entitled to live and work. We do not disagree with a statement such as that; but somehow or other that is to be linked with the fact that if someone makes a new plant, something that does not exist in the world today, it should be handed over, if you like. Humanity dictates that people do not hand over; in fact, people do not invent if there is no incentive.

We have had to rely on the public breeding sector, which I am most anxious to see survive. There is a very definite need for a public breeding sector-I will expand on that-and we have had to rely on it. There has been no incentive, of the type that we know and understand in our capitalist society, for a public breeding sector because we have managed to finance research by levies. The producers of Australia, the grain growers and others, are obliged to have some money taken out of the proceeds of the sale of their crops for research. They have done that willingly. But lump sums of money have gone off to various breeding organisations with no obligation to produce the goods.

I did look for figures. I have seen the results of a research project, although it was a slightly old research project, which measured the value of grain productivity around the world received from research dollars expended. It compared countries all around the world. I can remember France, England, Russia and the United States of America, to name a few, being listed, and Australia was the lowest on the list. For all the dollars we put out, the gain in crop that we were gaining from public research was the lowest in the world. I do not want to argue the pros and cons of that now. As I have said, there is good reason to have public research. There is good reason for people to have a research project where there is no profit orientation. People have to go out and fiddle around, if you like, in the hope of making the big breakthrough. I think there is reason for that, and probably that up-front funding is the means by which that is achieved.

What we are talking about with plant variety rights is not up-front funding; we are talking about payment for the effort of the inventor or his financial backers. People complain about the involvement of multinationals. Of course multinationals will become involved. They have the financial resources to invest in backing an inventor, a breeder. It will be their money that sees the breeder through what could be years of development, and they, of course, will expect a profit. But the opponents of plant variety rights get off the rails when they suggest that the buying public, the farmers, the orchardists and the horticulturalists are all fools, and that somehow or other some multinational company, having discovered a highly productive new variety, will be able to convince farmers to take that variety off them at a loss.

We must remember that my wheat farmers already have a huge variety of grains to choose from, and they will not be covered by plant variety rights. Remember that they are a conservative group of people and that when a new product comes out they will not plant all their paddocks with that; they will plant a small section and they will assess the value of that in net terms. If the royalty is too high, if additional chemicals are required-I think that is a bit of a red herring-and it costs them more, and if the net return on that new product is below that on the old product, they will cease to grow the new product. It is as simple as that. Of course, there are certain people who have spoken in this debate who think those farmers and the horticulturalists are fools.

I am surprised at the extent to which the trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party have been able to convince the Australian worker that he is a fool. They keep telling him that he has to have Simon Crean to hold his hand to negotiate a labour deal. They believe that he is so foolish and so moronic that he could not do it for himself. Let me say a word on behalf of the Australian workers. They can do it on their own and I have had plenty of experience of making those arrangements directly with them. But I digress from the subject of the debate. I am saying that the Australian farmer is not a fool and that the Australian horticulturalist is not a fool. If the multinational cannot offer them additional profit, they will not buy the product. That is a totally fallacious argument.


Mr O'Keefe —You are the only one talking about others being fools. No one else thinks that.


Mr TUCKEY —I ask the honourable member to withdraw that, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is quite unnecessary.


Mr O'Keefe —It wasn't unparliamentary.


Mr TUCKEY —Of course it was.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —I did not hear the honourable member.


Mr TUCKEY —The gentleman referred to me as a fool. If he wants to interject--


Mr O'Keefe —I said you are the only one talking about others being fools, not us.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will cease interjecting.


Mr TUCKEY —I am saying quite clearly that they are not fools. I add that only the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Labor Party think Australian workers are fools. I do not. I do not think they need the help that is forced upon them. I return now to this legislation. We can give people incentive; we can give people opportunity in this area. We are often told by those who oppose this legislation that they will turn to hybrids. The fallacious part of that argument is that we have hybrids already. They do not require plant variety rights protection. The process of the green revolution, if I can call it that, involved, first, chemicals, whether they were fertilisers or of a destructive nature. Big business moved in and it improved productivity. It has a down side, as we know, particularly with the destructive chemicals, and we have had difficulties. They took that process as far as it would go.

The next step was hybrids. Hybrids are self-protecting; they are not self-generating, so one always had to go back to the breeders, and the breeders only had to keep their secrets. They were successful at that. The third step is to move into self-generating species. If we are to encourage private enterprise people to invest their money in that area and take the risk, remembering that there is no guarantee of reward, we must give them the opportunity of some guaranteed return if they are successful. That is what plant variety rights is about. For years we have recognised it in the area of ordinary invention. Why should we now see it differently? This legislation goes to great pains, to a degree that I do not think exists in ordinary patent-type legislation, to impose some control over whether or not the product will be provided. It demands, as did the legislation that was introduced by the previous Government, that a person who breeds these plants will not only make them available to the general public-they have an obligation to do so at a reasonable price-but also will make available samples for a genetic bank. I remember the criticism that we would lose all our genetic stock. In fact it is this legislation and the controversy surrounding it that have created the circumstances in which people are now creating genetic stocks. Previously it was a vacuum. It happened if somebody thought about it. There was no guarantee. This legislation gives a much greater guarantee.

People say that plant stocks are to be denied to the undeveloped world. The undeveloped world suffers greatly from its inability to buy the types of grains and other produce we have today because it does not have any money. I am sure that if people in this country could produce more crops for the same money or produce crops for less money they would be prepared to compete on the world market and lower those prices. I think that argument is a furphy also. I am pleased that a large number of honourable members opposite are prepared to support this legislation.


Mr Gayler —More than yours.


Mr TUCKEY —I am prepared to say that our side of politics has supported it for as long as I have been in this Parliament, and that is six years.


Mr Gayler —Fifteen years late.


Mr TUCKEY —Our side of politics has supported it since its introduction. It is no good saying that we are 15 years late when the Government side had six months in which to consider it and failed to come to a decision. I have to remind the House that it was the Labor Party and the Australian Democrats which defeated the previous legislation in the Senate. They cannot get away from that; it is a matter of record. They have eventually come to the conclusion that Australia needs it in these difficult times. These are difficult times, and we need production in many areas. Because of the 38-hour week-superannuation argument Australia lost $10m worth of meat exports in the last week or 10 days. Honourable members opposite can say that that is wise because it was for a greater need. It was not for a greater need. The exports were important.

The final point I want to make is that there is a new push for free enterprise in the world, and we have read about it recently. Mr Gorbachev in Russia has just discovered it; the Chinese are discovering it. That has a great message for Australia. If those two countries are able to get a private enterprise ethic and destroy the curse of socialism, there will be huge competition in agricultural productivity in the world. We must do something about it now. We have waited all this time. We have seen the corn-growing industry decimated by the lack of PVR; we have seen the berries industry almost decimated by the lack of PVR, and all because the present Government could not bring itself in opposition to support such legislation. I am pleased to say that the present Opposition has a much more constructive approach--


Mr Saunderson —We are supporting this legislation because it is ours and it is better than yours.


Mr TUCKEY —There is practically no difference between the two pieces of legislation. The alterations are minuscule. In practice the pieces of legislation are the same, and therefore the interjector does not know what he is talking about. He does not have to be embarrassed. We are supporting the Government; it failed to support us.


Mr Gayler —We fixed it up for you.


Mr TUCKEY —Yes, I bet you did. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have completed my address. I am interested that again members on our side of the House get warned and kicked out for making interjections of the type I have been suffering for the last five minutes. Thank you.