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Wednesday, 25 February 1987
Page: 588


Senator POWELL(12.31) —by leave-I move:

(20) Page 21, sub-clause 38 (1), after paragraph (b), insert the following new paragraph:

``(ba) sell plants of that variety otherwise than for private profit;''.

(21) Page 22, after sub-clause 38 (1), insert the following new sub-clause:

``(1a) The Advisory Committee shall, within 60 days after each year ending on 30 June, advise the Minister, the Secretary and the Registrar on the operation of sub-section (1).''.

(22) Page 28, paragraph 45 (1) (c), lines 10 and 11, leave out ``one member who, in the opinion of the Minister, is an appropriate person'', insert ``two members who, in the opinion of the Minister, are appropriate persons''.

(23) Page 28, paragraph 45 (1) (d), lines 13 and 14, leave out ``one member who, in the opinion of the Minister, is an appropriate person'', insert ``two members who, in the opinion of the Minister, are appropriate persons''.

Amendment No. (20) to sub-clause 38 (1) outlines the aspects on which this legislation should not restrict sales for food, fibre, fuel, et cetera. A chief concern of the Australian Democrats throughout this debate has been with the potential for and the evidence of restriction of access, the restriction of use of plant material and the products ongrown from plant material in the whole international sense. The amendment is moved out of concern for people's community rights in general. The Bill allows that there should be no restriction to propagate, grow and use plants for purposes other than commercial purposes. That means that, if a plant does have a patent, we can grow it, which is comforting. Of course, we will have to pay, but that is an issue that has been addressed in past parts of the debate. Other sections of this clause provide that plants of that variety, once they are grown, can be used as food or in other ways. It provides that, if one sells a property on which a patented plant is growing, the plant can be sold as part of the property, which again is comforting. Reproductive material of patented plants can be sold for use as food or for other use, as long as that does not involve the production of plants of that variety; if it did, a further royalty would need to be paid.

My amendment allows that plants of a patented variety can be sold for other than private profit. I have in mind a situation under the provisions of this Bill in which we may be permitted to grow a patented variety in our own private garden or on our own farm. But there seems to be no provision in this legislation by which we could, as we might do today, grow from that plant, as we are permitted to do under the legislation, a further plant and sell it but not for our own profit. For example, it could be sold for a fund raising exercise on a street stall. It seems to me that this is a perfectly reasonable proposition to put to a parliament on both sides of which we see privatisation becoming a major feature. It seems to me that in a great many aspects of our lives we will have to run more street stalls in the future to be able to pay for things. So it seems perfectly appropriate that under this legislation people's rights should not be restricted in that sort of area, which is outside the commercial area per se.

The second amendment in this group of amendments-amendment No. 21-again is an amendment which Mr Kerin, the current Minister for Primary Industry, attempted to make to the original legislation. It relates to the same clause of the Bill. These rights of the public not to be restricted in certain ways should be the subject of an annual report by the Advisory Committee to the Minister, the Secretary and the Registrar on how this clause is operating. I move this amendment, as Mr Kerin did in 1982, in the interests of an ongoing review of the rights of the public not to be restricted under this legislation. While it is all very well to have provisions in legislation which say that the public's rights will not be restricted, that would have to be under constant review. The view of the Australian Democrats is that it should be the subject of an annual report.

The final two amendments relate to clause 45 of the Bill, the clause which sets in place the Advisory Committee to which we have referred quite often during the Committee stage of this Bill. The Advisory Committee, as constituted in the Bill, provides for a Registrar, two members who in the opinion of the Minister are appropriate to represent breeders or likely breeders, only one member who in the opinion of the Minister is likely to represent producers or likely producers of new plant varieties-presumably the seed industry itself-and one member who in the opinion of the Minister is an appropriate person to represent the interests of consumers and likely consumers of new varieties or of the products of new varieties. I suspect those consumers would be, in particular, farmers and horticulturists using the new varieties. The Bill provides for another two members who, in a more general sense, the Minister believes have the necessary qualifications and experience to be members of that Committee.

We propose with these final two amendments the inclusion of one additional member under sub-clause (c) to represent producers or likely producers of new plant varieties. During the course of the debate on this legislation we have expressed our concern for the fate of the Australian seed industry, which is currently an industry comprising a great many small concerns. Whilst I do not have great confidence that even the passage of this amendment would really do a great deal to ensure a greater voice and more protection for those people who expect to be in the business of producing seeds of new varieties once they are bred, I do believe that the very least the Australian Democrats can do in these circumstances is to ensure the greater representation of those people on the Advisory Committee.

The amendment to sub-clause (d) allows for a further member who would represent that group, which would basically consist of farmers and the growers of varieties. As I have said before, concern has been expressed to me by the National Farmers Federation that the farmers' voice in all of this is not prominent enough, and for that reason this amendment is proposed to the Committee. I certainly would have expected the Opposition, which cries support for the farmers, to have supported this amendment, which would give the farmers and the people who are going to be growing the new varieties a greater voice in the administration of this legislation.

In the original legislation proposed by the then coalition Government, Mr Kerin's proposal for the membership of the Advisory Committee was substantially higher than what we currently have. I do not believe that the addition of two more members makes it unwieldy or cumbersome. The area of the public interest and the survival of various Australian industries which the Australian Democrats believe are under threat by this legislation might benefit from those two amendments. I commend these final amendments to the Committee.