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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6628

Senator TROETH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (5:39 PM) — The government will not be supporting this set of Democrat amendments—that is, (9) to (12), (R13), (14) and (15). I will comment generally on the reasons we are not supporting those amendments. With regard to amendment (9), currently objections to applications can be raised by those with a commercial interest. This qualification permits sale of the new variety pending a full examination of whether the criteria of distinctness, uniformity and stability have been met. It is simply an interim stage. The important step is that of grant, which is made only on achievement of the criteria, at which stage the grant is open to challenge and revocation by those whose interests are affected.

With regard to amendment (10) and some of the other comments that Senator Cherry made, I should point out that plant breeders rights is a cost recovery program. The administration of the program is based on equitable, non-discriminatory principles. It would be inequitable and discriminatory to allow uncosted challenges in respect of objections from exclusive groups. Such an approach would also run the risk of promoting frivolous or vexatious challenges at the expense of the public purse.

I will also respond to amendment (R13) and point out again, at the risk of labouring the point, that plant breeders rights is non-discriminatory and protects the interests of Indigenous and non-Indigenous plant breeders alike. These proposals would be a disincentive to all Australians, including Indigenous breeders and communities, to develop new varieties from germplasm found in certain locations. Landrace varieties are already ineligible for PBR registration under the Australian act and under UPOV. Plant breeders rights—and I think I mentioned this earlier in the debate—only apply to new varieties that are distinguishable from existing varieties of common knowledge.

I again ask you to note that plant breeders rights coexist with other laws of the land, and it is unnecessary to attempt to replicate those laws in plant breeders rights. Traditional knowledge is a complex and, despite its name, new area in terms of its relationship with intellectual property, where traditional, national and international laws intersect. As such, there is a need to proceed carefully and to not simply tag concepts onto passing legislation irrespective of whether or not that is the appropriate legislation.