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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7118

Senator STOTT DESPOJA (11:46 AM) —So that we can assist the determination of numbers, I will not be talking, unless necessary to talk, for more than five minutes on amendments from now on, but Senator Boswell kindly invited me to give my views. I will not be supporting the amendment before the chamber.

In relation to labelling generally, I think my stance and that of the Democrats is well known. We have not advocated the labelling of products or organisms, whether they be GMOs or tobacco, in ways that are unsuitable to the legislation, but certainly we have been strong proponents of labelling. I use the example that has been brought up by others, and that is why I repeat it. I think the Democrats were calling for the labelling of genetically modified foods from 1994 onwards. That labelling debate did not take place during the Gene Technology Bill; it took place in the ANZFA legislative debate, and that was the right place.

In the same way that we talk about smoking and other health warnings, I think the Therapeutic Goods Act is the place for that debate. I do not think this is the appropriate vehicle in relation to the legislation, and I do not know if the amendment deals with some of the specifics required. Is the labelling meant to include components of the product as well as the finished product? When manufacturers buy components to make their products, and of course they can have several hundred such components, will they be able to access the sort of information that the amendment requires? How exactly should information be detailed on this label? What sort of label exactly is required? I do not think those issues are dealt with adequately. While I think people in the chamber have some sympathy for the notion of labelling, we should get it right through the TGA and other legislation.

Government senators interjecting

Senator STOTT DESPOJA —Chair, I was asked to make comment; I will leave my comments there. We will not be supporting the amendment.

Senator STOTT DESPOJA —I think it is very frustrating to make contributions, when we are all trying to be quiet and judicious to ensure that the debate proceeds quickly, and have to deal with interjections, whether they are about your comments or not. I think there are opportunities for the government to explore this issue through other legislation. I would put on the record, too, that there has been a lot of debate—and I am not going to reflect on a vote of the Senate, as has been done—but in relation to the pharmaceuticals issue and drug testing, let us not forget that in our society there are drug trials, whether or not people have conscience views on those particular issues. I think some people would go so far as to suggest that drugs are actually tested on humans in this day and age already, whether that is an appropriate thing or not.

We are talking about this as if we are breaking new ground in relation to humans and drug testing. Obviously we are breaking new ground in other ways, and I acknowledge that, but this is not the place; the amendment is not specific enough; I think it is a good point and that it is designed for most people to react to it in a way that says, `Yes, this is reasonable, this is good; this is an amendment with which I can have sympathy.' But this legislation is not the right place, and the amendment is not sufficiently detailed as to answer some of the outstanding questions that there would be from medical practitioners, people in the community, a range of agencies and, of course, scientists.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Cherry)—Before I call the next speaker, I would encourage senators not to interject upon speakers, particularly when they are not sitting in their chairs. I would also remind senators that we are trying to keep this debate within constrained time limits.