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Wednesday, 25 February 1987
Page: 569


Senator POWELL(10.13) —My recollection is that some days ago upon the adjournment of the consideration in Committee of the three amendments I had moved I was pointing out that these amendments were, in substance, amendments unsuccessfully moved by the now Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) to the original 1982 Bill presented by the coalition Government. I remind the Committee that these amendments have the effect of enforcing one aspect which the Australian Democrats are very concerned is all too absent from this legislation, and that is the aspect of merit testing and, in particular, testing for commercial, nutritional and environmental aspects of varieties which are intended to be patented under this legislation. I remind the Committee of that before it votes on these amendments, as it has voted on and rejected the previous 11 amendments proposed.

It has been a feature of the debate that the Government significantly moved from the position that it took when in opposition, especially that of the present Minister for Primary Industry. To be fair, not all Government members have moved from their earlier position. The only Government speaker to speak against the Bill at the second reading stage was Senator Zakharov. Unfortunately, it has not been reflected in the votes on the amendments and the second reading.

With these amendments, as with previous amendments, the Democrats are trying to ensure, in the interests of Australians involved in agriculture and horticulture, that merit testing be a feature of the legislation. When we attempted to do that in our first amendment the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh) responded by saying that it was too expensive and too difficult to do. We believe, that, in the interests of Australia's agriculture and horticulture, it should be done. We are particularly disappointed that the previous amendment on varieties from overseas was lost. I urge the Committee to understand the importance of merit testing in a patent system as proposed by the legislation, and to support the amendments.