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Friday, 20 February 1987
Page: 367


Senator POWELL(12.00) —I move:

(9) Page 12, clause 21, at the end of clause, add the following new sub-clause:

``(2) The Registrar shall, within 21 days after public notice of an application for plant variety rights has been given, cause a copy of the application to be made available for inspection at the principal office of-

(a) the State Department of Agriculture or the equivalent Department in each State;

(b) the equivalent Department in the Northern Territory; and

(c) the Department of Territories in the Australian Capital Territory.''.

This clause of the Bill, which is somewhat similar to an earlier clause in respect of which we were concerned about access to information, relates to the ability of people to inspect applications and objections. Clause 21 provides merely that a copy of the application or the objection will be provided upon payment of a fee, if any, as prescribed. When that provision was proposed in the original legislation, Mr Kerin, the current Minister for Primary Industry, moved an amendment-it was lost, as were the others to which we have drawn attention-which would have required that notice of that application be made available for inspection basically at the State departments of agriculture and the equivalent departments in the Territories. This comes under the heading of access to information in a slightly more limited way than does another matter which was the subject of an earlier clause. It seems to us that there is a further need in the legislation to provide specific access to information and notice of application on the basis that access should be made as easy as possible because we believe that there is a very strong potential for this legislation to have a negative impact. Once more, we have a situation where the Government, when in opposition, believed, or said it believed, in these sorts of principles.

This amendment does not require enormous widespread application. It simply provides that this information shall be made available to departments of agriculture in the States and the Territories. This link between the State departments and the federally administered program under plant variety rights will be absolutely critical. During the second reading debate, one honourable senator and, I think, the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh), in summing up, made reference to State departments of agriculture. At the moment these departments are very important players in the whole business of the provision of very high quality seeds and plant material to farmers and producers, and they will continue to play an important role. People who are interested, and who have a right to know what is happening in this area, should be given as much access as possible. The State departments are a perfectly appropriate place for this to happen. Once again, it appears that the Government is not prepared to support a position which it held only four years ago when in opposition. Nevertheless, I commend this amendment to the Committee.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 22 agreed to.

Clause 23 (Characteristics of plant varieties originated outside Australia).