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Thursday, 11 November 1976
Page: 2606

Mr HOWARD (Bennelong) (Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Customs Act 1901 to give effect to revised rules of origin, made under the Agreement on Trade and Commercial Relations between the Government of Australia and the Government of Papua New Guinea, and to omit the word 'sativa' from the definition of cannibas plant in the Act. Honourable members will recall, from my statement to the House, after the signing of the Agreement on Trade and Commercial Relations, that the agreement establishes a free trade area which is free of duties and other restrictive regulations of commerce for trade in goods originating in a member State. In general the revised rules of origin provide for a one-half area content. However where the one-half rule is not met and it is considered that preferential treatment should be given, the Minister may determine that another portion that is less than one-half is appropriate. The new rules introduce a desirable flexibility by allowing this simple basic rule, the one-half rule, to operate without disadvantaging goods which do not meet the conditions of the rule but in respect of which it might be desirable to accord preferential treatment.

J now turn to the amendment of the definition of 'cannabis plant'. The Customs Act defines cannabis plant as a plant of the genus 'cannabis sativa'. When this definition was inserted into the Customs Act in 197 1 it was intended to cover all known forms of cannabis. Since that time, overseas research on cannabis has led to a theory that the plant is polytypic rather than monotypic, that is to say there are species other than sativa. As this argument has been developed in Australia and used in prosecutions, the courts have experienced some difficulty in deciding whether or not the material in question is covered by the existing definition. The amended definition will overcome these difficulties by including only the main genus description, 'cannabis '. I commend the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.

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