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Wednesday, 25 February 1987
Page: 575

Senator POWELL(10.46) —I think, as you obviously do, Mr Chairman, it is important that we clarify that this amendment relates to what happens in giving notice to people who have made objection when there has been an application for grant of a patent on a plant. The reason for moving this amendment, which says that anybody who objects should be informed once a patent is granted, is that we believe and I think the Minister's comment on this actually confirms our belief-that there will be a lot of objections. The Minister said that this would tie everything up in red tape. That must mean that the Minister believes there will be a lot of objections.

We have heard the Opposition-and interestingly enough, the last contribution was the first, other than from the Minister, to come from any Government senator-pleading the Government's case on this Bill. It is a very interesting occurrence and one which Senator Vallentine has underlined. I think we here might be seeing the Johalition at work as the Opposition pleads vehemently for the Government's Bill, with Government refusing, as in the case of this amendment, even to look seriously at its own former amendments. We believe there will be a lot of objections. Mr Julian Cribb in this morning's edition of the Australian said that there was a core of respectable support for the Democrats' opposition:

. . . ranging from the Australian Consumers Association, the Australian Council of Overseas Aid, the Australian Federation of Consumer Organisations, the Australian Conservation Foundation and-

note this-

even several plant breeders of national and international repute.

Such bodies are obviously going to take a very close interest when there are applications for patents on plants under plant variety rights legislation, and we believe they will object. So too, perhaps, will farmers object if they are concerned that the very excellent public breeding sector which we have in Australia, particularly in the cereals industry, is at risk. Our evidence is certainly different when it comes to who is in support of this and who is not. The United Farmers and Stock Owners of South Australia and the Livestock and Grain Producers Association of New South Wales are two organisations of farmers which have expressed concern to us, and so too has the National Farmers Federation in discussions with me when this Bill was first before the House of Representatives. Later amendments will be ones which the National Farmers Federation has suggested in the interests of farmers. However, given that there is such a broad range of concern about the specifics to do with the whole issue of patenting plant material if not outright opposition by everybody, there will be a number of objections when a patent is applied for and therefore--

Senator Watson —Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. You have already ruled on this. This is a persistent attack by the Democrats against your rulings that they debate the amendment before the Chair rather than indulge in second reading debate speeches. I do not think we should have to get up and plead our point of view simply because they have been allowed to range so widely in relation to this Bill.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! I have been listening to Senator Powell. She has been talking to the subject of objections, which is the subject of this amendment. Nevertheless, Senator Watson's point of order was in general correct. This has been a far too wide ranging debate and I intend to confine it to the actual matter of the amendment before the Chair.