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Monday, 25 February 1985
Page: 117


Senator ARCHER(3.18) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I should like to make a few brief comments on this report. Firstly, I draw to the notice of the Senate the fact that the meeting to which this report relates was held on 30 July last year. Eight months is a tremendous length of time to wait for a report to be presented to the Parliament. I realise that the Parliament has not sat for some time, but this is not the first time such a report has taken so long to present.

Probably the most important matter in the report to which I should draw attention is set out on page 3. Under the heading 'Economic and trade situation' the Council noted that aggregate farm income in real terms was forecast to decline to the second lowest level recorded by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. We all ought to take this matter into account. It needs to be borne in mind in Government legislation, in debates in this chamber, and in the community at large. It is terribly important that we should bear in mind that farm income is forecast to be at the second lowest level recorded by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics.

The issues covered at the meeting were many and varied, but I believe that in future we should take into account those matters which will have a big effect on how we reverse the trend of declining farm income. Amongst those issues is the biological control of both living things and plants. There is certain work afoot in this respect but it is very slow and there is considerable objection to it. The objection comes from people who are not involved in trying to maintain the national economy and produce the income the country needs to support the policies of government. Another important issue is the question of feral animals, which is a very considerable Australia-wide problem. More direct policies need to be entered into to ensure that some feral animals are brought under control. We need a system that will be productive in terms of income and make the country safer and better for animals of our own choosing.

I now turn to the questions of plant variety rights. If we are to overcome the decline in the income earning capacity of people who are trying to produce food or export produce, it is absolutely essential that we have a plant variety rights scheme to enable them to produce or import better plants. While ever we have this ostrich situation of saying that we do not need plant variety rights, we cannot have such a system and there is something wrong with it, we will continue to go down the shute that shows we are declining. I understand that we will be dealing with other matters considered by the Australian Agricultural Council in about a month's time.