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Wednesday, 30 August 2000
Page: 19616


Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Community Services) (10:01 AM) —This has been an interesting debate, to say the least. As many opposition members have conceded the Gene Technology Bill 2000 is the proud product of a particularly open and engaging consultative process. Rightly, our consultations on this bill have attracted consistent praise from stakeholders, even those who oppose the use of the technology itself. I note that even the member for Bruce had positive words to say about the efforts of the International Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, and this is as it should be. Over 10 months the IOGTR has conducted face-to-face consultations with over 2,500 people and corresponded regularly with around 4,000 individuals and organisations. Importantly the IOGTR has forged strong partnerships with every state and territory. The IOGTR has put us in a position, for the first time in a decade, of actually being able to achieve a national uniform regulatory system for GMOs. The government has repeatedly stressed the fact that Australia must have legislation passed in each state and territory to ensure the most effective regulatory base for this country.

I note with interest that a number of premiers have written to the Senate inquiry in support of the bill. Some of the reasons this government and the states considered that this bill should go through without amendments include the fact that it establishes an independent regulator, free from political and industry interference. Further, it delivers science based decision making with a world first capacity to take into account ethical and community considerations, but in a way that ensures that the decisions are objective and not swayed by interest or lobby groups. I should also mention that the entire system is underpinned by extensive and ongoing community consultation on not only individual applications but also the policy that drives the scheme—again, a world first.

No government at Commonwealth or state level would be interested in implementing anything other than the most stringent and rigorous legislation, which is what we have before us. No government would put the Australian community or the Australian environment at risk, and this legislation well and truly covers all risks. What this legislation does not do is give comfort to those who would see a moratorium on gene technology introduced by stealth. This legislation will enable the use of technology within appropriate controls. It will not be a backdoor mechanism for stymieing our research and development or the appropriate commercialisation of products by inappropriate and heavy-handed, unnecessary or hysterical measures. We will have world's best practice with this legislation. Australia will set the benchmark for the rest of the world. This is the reason this legislation enjoys the support of the states.

I thank all members for their contribution to this debate. I commend this bill to the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative, Dr Theophanous dissenting.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.