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Friday, 15 November 2002
Page: 6544


Senator TROETH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (3:22 PM) — Democrat amendments (3) and (3A) are about definitions arising from other items and I do not believe require comment as such. Democrat amendment (R4) is a prescriptive definition that is inflexible, restrictive and cannot accommodate shifts in international best practice or emerging technology, and the government will not be supporting it. It would make it easier to breed and register Australian native species overseas rather than in Australia, which would be a major disincentive to Australian innovators and would, for example, place our competitors in a perfect position to exploit native Australian species such as kangaroo paw— an outcome that would be entirely inconsistent with ensuring that Australia benefits from the exploitation of its biological diversity. Senator O'Brien has mentioned the draft conclusions of the expert panel, and the government would agree with those.

Some of the detrimental effects that would flow on if we took up this proposed definition would be that it would exclude most of the annual horticultural plants developed from sports and it would exclude all hybrids such as maize, sorghum and rice and many of the successful traditional breeding techniques such as self-lines and double haploids. It would impose unnecessary time limits, by way of the minimum number of generations, that would make registration of some varieties unrealistic—such as mangoes, where three generations may take 60 years or more.

The proposed exclusion from breeding of plants that are the result of traditional knowledge represents a misunderstanding of the legislation. Any criteria that further limited the development of new varieties would not only place Australia at risk with its international obligations but would detract from the main aim of promoting plant innovation. Issues of prior informed consent and benefit sharing are already being dealt with by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and therefore it is unnecessary and undesirable to replicate those controls in PBR. The government will not be supporting the amendment.