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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 330

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(10.23) —I shall make my riveting contribution brief. I think the most significant contribution I can make to the implementation of the Plant Variety Rights Bill 1986 is in being brief so that its passage through the Parliament will be expeditious. I want to say from the outset that it is a grave indictment of this delinquent Government that it has taken so long to recognise the value and the virtue of plant variety rights legislation and finally to manage, after its internecine factional fighting, to negotiate its way through some compromise to the point where we now have legislation before us, notwithstanding the fact that it is deficient in a number of areas and that there are some amendments to be moved by the Opposition.

It is worth recalling that this legislation is a reflection in large part of legislation which was introduced by Mr Peter Nixon, the Minister for Primary Industry in, as I recall, 1981. It lay on the table for a period of 12 months to allow those who had views to express them to the government of that day. Subsequently, there have been a number of reports, not least of which being the outstanding contribution by the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources, a fine body of men and women who examined the question of plant variety rights.

Senator Powell —Are you one?

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Yes, as a matter of fact. I was too modest to read the names out. Had I done so I would have left my own out, I can assure honourable senators. That report was presented in May of 1984. It was a full, detailed and comprehensive report, the culmination of a great deal of evidence taken from and received by people who were both in favour of such legislation and people who were opposed to it. That evidence was distilled into recommendations, and the majority of that Committee came down strongly in support of plant variety rights legislation of one type.

Then there was a further report, commissioned by the present Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Kerin. It was to be written by Professor Alec Lazenby. Obviously, that report was intended to provide breathing space for the Government to allow it to negotiate its way through the imbroglio into which the Government had been plunged as a result of the factions within it. We have, as we all well know, three governments in one. It is the dastardly trinity. The Left, of course, because of ideological obsession, was totally opposed to the legislation; the Right was for it; and the Centre Left was as confused as it inevitably is. The legislation we have before us is the lowest common denominator agreement that was arrived at between the three. Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.