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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 248


Senator BOSWELL(12.23) —My contribution today will be short because I do not want to hold up the Plant Variety Rights Bill any more than it has already been delayed. I was dismayed by some comments of the two previous speakers in this debate. One honourable senator, an ex-Democrat, and the other Australian Democrat who contributed, made many erroneous statements. I find myself hard pushed to agree with Senator Walsh on most things, but I supported his interjections today when he said that it was a lot of rubbish.


Senator Walsh —On technical grounds.


Senator BOSWELL —On any ground it was a lot of rubbish. The facts of the matter are that every peak rural producer organisation in Australia is clamouring for the plant variety rights legislation and has been doing so for 18 to 20 years. I have letters from the National Farmers Federation and from the Livestock and Grain Producers Association of New South Wales, and telephone calls from horticulturists in my State, asking me to support this legislation in Parliament. They should have known that I would support the legislation because I was one of those senators who, with Senator Zakharov and Senator Georges, were fortunate enough to be a member of the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources which investigated the subject of plant variety rights and took evidence throughout Australia. We visited Western Australia, Adelaide, Canberra, New South Wales and Victoria and overwhelming support for plant variety rights legislation was indicated. The Committee had 229 submissions in all, and I estimated that 210 of those submissions favoured the introduction of a plant variety rights scheme for Australia.

Some well-meaning people who opposed the legislation did so on religious grounds. I do not knock them for that, they are entitled to their opinion, but when we took evidence that opposition did not stand up. Many people said that we would ruin the agricultural industries in Third World countries. That argument did not add up either. Professor Lazenby alluded to that matter in his report. Any plant variety rights that will increase production can only be to the benefit of Third World countries. Any plant variety rights that will increase the production of varieties in Australia can only add to Australia's export industry.

I should mention the comments made in a letter I received from the Livestock and Grain Producers Association of New South Wales in order to offset some of the comments made by the Democrats. The letter talks about the Australian nectarine producers who found themselves competing with patent varieties and nectarines from New Zealand which had been bred for their superior size and colour. The New Zealand nectarines were at least twice the size and had a far better texture. A check of the Department of Primary Industry's figures on imports of stone fruit from New Zealand since the PVR legislation was introduced there showed an incredible increase in imports. The letter says that, naturally, Australian fruit growers are suffering from a lack of the same genetic material as their competitors. That is happening not only in the nectarine industry, but in the sweet corn industry and indeed throughout the whole horticultural industry. It is having a very serious effect on a rural producing industry that could develop overseas markets and increase our export earnings if we were able to receive into Australia these genetic banks of material that would give us increased production. Already our vegetable industry is increasing, as previous speakers have said. As the growing season in Australia occurs when many overseas countries are in winter, it gives us an advantage in those overseas markets for flowers, vegetables and other products, but we cannot develop those markets unless we have the same benefits and materials as do some of these other countries.

I believe that most other countries have already adopted plant variety rights legislation. This applies to countries on both sides of the political fence. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has adopted plant variety rights legislation, as has Hungary and other Eastern Bloc countries and also Great Britain and certain European countries. Therefore, this legislation is not representative of any particular type of political thinking.

It is not surprising that the Democrats will not support this legislation. The Democrats have displayed on numerous occasions that they are even more anti-rural than is the Australian Labor Party. That is a bold and brave statement to make, but I can make it with confidence. Some of the legislation and committees introduced, or sought to be introduced, into the Senate by the Australian Democrats have had a terrible effect on rural producers in Australia. The Democrats introduced an animal welfare committee which has allowed $20m worth of live sheep exports to be lost to Australia. By voting with the Australian Labor Party on a number of issues, the Democrats have aided and abetted the fringe benefits tax, the capital gains tax, the quarantining of farm losses and other costs on rural Australia. They voted with the Labor Party to remove tax writeoffs from water conservation expenditure and last year, only two or three months ago, they cost Queensland farmers alone $12m when they would not support the imported fertiliser subsidy.


Senator Zakharov —Is that relevant to the Bill?


Senator BOSWELL —It is very relevant. It shows that the Democrats have no feeling or support for rural Australia.


Senator Walsh —I thought you were a Joh man. I thought you were for cutting government expenditure. All I ever hear from you are complaints that it has not been increased.


Senator BOSWELL —I understand that Senator Walsh will be making a contribution to the debate later in the day. I would appreciate it if he would let me develop my argument here.


Senator Walsh —Joh announced a wild spending spree yesterday-$400m.


Senator BOSWELL —I would appreciate it if Senator Walsh would let me make my contribution. I support this legislation; I believe that every rural organisation in Australia supports it. There may be the odd farmer here and there who does not support it or who has some reservations about it, but the people who have research available to them, such as the National Farmers Federation, which has research people, have obviously looked at the Bill and they are happy with the legislation. They want it passed at the earliest opportunity.