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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9262

Mr HUTCHINSON (Lyons) (10:58): On behalf of the many agricultural producers in my electorate, I raise the subject of industrial hemp and the unacceptably long delay nationally in deciding whether to legalise its cultivation for human consumption. Producers in my home state of Tasmania in particular, but also in most other Australian states and in New Zealand, have been campaigning for the development of this industry for more than a decade. Hemp is already cultivated in Australia and New Zealand under strict licensing arrangements and is used to make fibre, textiles, paper and building materials.

The removal of prohibitions on the production of hemp seed and oil products would provide farmers with a greater range of viable markets for a crop that we have known for many years grows particularly well in the southern regions of Australia and New Zealand. It would also encourage more farmers to consider growing it commercially. It provides, as I understand it, an excellent rotation crop between poppies.

The hold-up has been the decision required by state and federal health ministers to legalise the cultivation of hemp for human consumption. I have written recently to state health ministers and the federal health minister, Peter Dutton, urging them to push for an early resolution to this matter sooner than the next meeting of the Council of Australian Governments' committee responsible for the decision, which is not scheduled to meet until January next year. The committee again deferred a decision on hemp for human consumption at its June meeting and asked for more information, even after Prime Minister Tony Abbott called for a report on the matter to help expedite a decision.

The case for industrial hemp for human consumption has long been argued and is well-known. What is not needed is more information to be sought for a meeting that will not take place until the new year. What is needed are forthright state ministers to make a decision now so that farmers know whether or not this can become an exciting new industry for them once and for all. It is indeed important to protect public health. There is a responsibility of the ministers and government generally to protect public health, but there is confusion, I believe, in this instance about the difference between industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis. Industrial hemp is low or nil THC. It looks to me indeed more like bureaucratic bungling than process to deliver good public policy.

I pay tribute to Phil Reader from my electorate of Lyons who lives at Bishopsbourne. As a constituent he has been over many, many years an extremely strong advocate to see industrial hemp used for human consumption—and also Tim and Pip Schmidt from Red Hills. And I pay tribute to others in their efforts to see industrial hemp grown for consumption in Tasmania and more broadly around this great country.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Ewen Jones ): Order! In accordance with standing order 193 the time for constituency statements has concluded.