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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6629

Senator CHERRY (5:45 PM) —I have a very brief response. I wish I shared the confidence in government agencies in this area of plant breeders rights. It is interesting, again reading through the research done by Bill Hankin, that Australian agencies had to withdraw applications for plant breeders rights under pressure in five cases during the 1998 investigation that Heritage Seed Curators did of the PBR Scheme. The majority of those applications came from government agencies. One of the examples used in that particular report is a CSIRO application for a PBR overwrite of millet, which was essentially bought in Pakistan, trialled by the USDA and eventually obtained by the CSIRO in Queensland. They trialled the seed, did some selecting, and applied for a PBR and it was granted.

Again, this is just an example of the fact that in some of these areas, because government agencies in themselves are seeking to pursue lines of revenue—particularly research organisations that are under pressure—the public interest often gets lost in all of this. It is very disappointing that the public interest will not be protected in what we are talking about today. I certainly dispute the minister's description of a system as `equitable' that expects a public interest group with no commercial interest in the particular matter of plant breeders rights, other than a concern about the broader issue of bio-piracy, to raise up to $60,000 through fundraising before the government will even look at the issue of how the system will work.

Question negatived.