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Wednesday, 22 June 1994
Page: 1919

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia) (6.33 p.m.) —I am disappointed that Senator Woodley is not in the chamber. I listened to his contribution, which was on a philosophical basis. I sent out for my Bible, which says in Genesis 1, chapter 26:

I am putting you in charge of the fish, the birds and all the wild animals.

That is God's word. Therefore, I find it difficult to follow Senator Woodley, who says that we cannot harvest—

Senator Coulter —This legislation is very good and you want to change it.

Senator BOSWELL —I do not want to get into a discussion on this; I just point out to Senator Woodley that there are two points of view. Senator Woodley seems to be—

Senator Kemp —He is selective.

Senator BOSWELL —He is very selective in flying in the face of reality. If we listened to Senator Woodley and the Democrats, we would never be able to harvest, produce or raise sheep because at one stage they were wild animals.

Senator Kemp —We would be cavemen.

Senator BOSWELL —We would not be cavemen, but we would never be able to use the provisions that God has put in this world to feed the nation. Let us get into the real debate. I was on the original committee in 1986. We took evidence all over Australia. The evidence overwhelmingly pointed to the need to have plant variety rights. I can recall that debate in South Australia, and can recall talking to a cherry producer. He said something like this—I rely on my memory—`My industry has been trying to get plant variety rights through and I never believe I will see the day that it will happen.' He saw the day. It did happen, and now this legislation is coming through to tighten and improve the original bill.

  Extensions to the duration of plant breeders' rights will be included in this bill. Rights over trees and vines are extended from 20 to 25 years and rights regarding prescribed categories of plants could be extended beyond the 20 years by regulation. There will have to be public notification if this is to occur, as stated in the government amendments. There is an extension of plant breeders' rights to include in certain circumstances harvested material and essential derived and certain dependent varieties.

  All these amendments are necessary for Australia to become involved in importing and exporting our produce. Australia has been given a huge advantage in producing primary industry products. To go without the PVR legislation for so long—it was introduced in 1986—put our primary producers at a natural disadvantage for so many years. Since the advent of the plant variety rights legislation, all primary industries have been given a tremendous boost. That includes the grain industry, which has not really won the benefits yet. They will be forthcoming in a couple of years time.

  According to the Nursery Industry Association, there are approximately 20,000 nurseries in Australia with a gross value of nursery crops estimated at $500 million a year. The plant variety rights legislation has provided a stimulus to local breeding work to the extent that the nursery industry now accounts for 80 per cent of the plant variety rights applications. The establishment of the plant variety rights scheme has also resulted in surges of overseas varieties into Australia, making us more competitive and letting us compete with these new products that are produced in Australia and then exported onto the world market.

Senator Coulter —You don't think public research can do that?

Senator BOSWELL —Public research and CSIRO have played a most important role in developing Australia's primary and secondary industries, but we cannot rely on that. Introducing this PBB legislation has definitely improved the opportunities for all Australian primary producers. For the Democrats to say anything different shows that they are living in a time warp. I would like to hear Senator Kernot explain her views on plant variety rights.

Senator Kemp —No; don't, Ron.

Senator BOSWELL —I think Senator Kernot would steer well away from what has been espoused by her colleagues. A number of other speakers want to participate in this debate. I want to put it on record that I support the legislation. I supported it in 1986. I was proud that I was on the committee that finally got plant variety legislation before the chamber and got it passed.

  I recall that the Democrats dragging the anchor then; they have not improved their game since. I have listened to their debate and nothing has changed. Their opposition to plant variety rights is isolating them from rural Australia and the primary industries. The evidence we took and the evidence Senator Brownhill's committee took overwhelmingly supported plant variety rights. It has the support of every peak growing body in Australia. It is only the Democrats and a few other odd bods who cannot see the advantage of plant variety rights and the benefits they give to Australia.

Senator Bell —You haven't told us what they are.

Senator BOSWELL —If you do not know by now what plant variety rights do for Australia, you should not be sitting here, saying that you represent farmers in Tasmania.