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Friday, 20 February 1987
Page: 361


Senator TATE (Special Minister of State)(11.13) —It is the intention of the Government, of course, not to support this particular amendment. I am interested that Senator Vigor should make the concession that if persons do breed a particular new variety, and have put some biotechnology, as he said, into the effort over many years, they should enjoy some personal gain. I think those were his words. That seems to me to be the whole basis of this Plant Variety Rights Bill. It is astonishing to me that, that concession having been made by Senator Vigor, the Australian Democrats should have opposed the very principle at the second reading stage. Having dealt with that, I am advised that it is not possible under the terms of the legislation for a person to come into Australia and take a particular piece of genetic material out of the wild, out of the bush, and patent it.

The real reason, of course, that I am concerned about the Australian Democrats' amendment in this particular respect occurs to me when I think of the orcharding industry in Tasmania. The terms of the amendment may prevent somebody who finds, say, on his apple orchard, a particular mutant and works on it, tests it, develops it and markets it-as, I think, occurred at one stage with the granny smith apple-getting some reward. I think perhaps such people should. For those reasons, anyway, the Government is not supporting this amendment.

For instance, they may find something which competed with one of their own products and which in fact was a much better product. As we shall find when we get to a later debate on clause 38, the Government leaves that matter wide open. There is ministerial discretion but there is no way in which a dishonest government, or a less than honest government, at some future time might not allow an open brief in that kind of area.