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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 21

(Question No. 1426)


Senator Archer asked the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, upon notice, on 14 October 1986:

To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Science-What specific steps is the Federal Government taking to promote biotechnology in Australia and to study the associated ethical problems.


Senator Button —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

1. Biotechnology in Australia is being promoted through a wide range of general and specific measures primarily within the context of the Government's industry policy. General measures include the 150% Taxation Concession for research and development, while specific measures include:

the National Biotechnology Program Research Grants Scheme which was established in 1983 and is designed to foster industry/researcher collaboration. It has now been incorporated as the generic technology component of the new Grants for Industry Research and Development (GIRD) which commenced on 1 July 1986. In the first four years of the program 31 projects in biotechnology have been supported at a cost of $17.8m.

use of the National Interest provisions of the Australian Industry Development Corporation (AIDC) Act to provide additional assistance to an Australian-based project which aims to develop and market an anti-malaria vaccine. Some $9.3m will be provided to this project over three years. It involves a joint venture between the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and Biotechnology Australia Pty Ltd.

promotion of international joint ventures in biotechnology through, for example, inclusion of biotechnology companies in overseas investment missions. One such mission was to Japan from 4 to 8 November 1986.

support for the biosciences group of the Scientific Industries Steering Committee, which is intended to extend biotechnology marketing opportunities in South East Asia: the Government sponsored a recent and successful visit by the group to Asia in July this year.

2. Biotechnology is often defined in terms of the applications, actual or potential, of its component technologies including, for example, genetic engineering and cell manipulation. Its relevance to ethical issues is therefore usually related to the application of one or other of its techniques. There are groups within Government which look at what might broadly be called ethical issues associated with these applications. The Animal Welfare Section within the Bureau of Rural Science of the Department of Primary Industry examines the technical and scientific aspects of animal treatment and use, while the National Health and Medical Research Council has developed guidelines on human ethical issues.