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Primary Industries and Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 1990



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House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Primary Industries and Energy

Purpose

This is an omnibus Bill that will make a number of largely non-contentious amendments to legislation administered by the Primary Industries and Energy portfolio. The major amendments relate to Selection Committees of the Horticultural Research and Development Corporation; plant variety rights; the payment of the wheat industry fund levy; and the management of the wheat industry fund.

Background

As there is no central theme to the Bill, the background to each amendment will be explained below.

Main Provisions

Amendments to the Horticultural Research and Development Corporation Act 1987

The Horticultural Research and Development Corporation (HRDC) was established in August 1988 to provide for joint Commonwealth and industry funding of horticultural research and development (RD) needs. The HRDC was established with the object of improving the efficiency and competitiveness of Australian horticultural industries. `Horticultural products' is defined in the Act to include fruits, vegetable, nuts, nursery products, cut flowers and foliage, and prescribed products.

The functions of the HRDC include to prepare and revise a five year RD plan; prepare annual RD programs; carry out, and co-ordinate and fund the carrying out of, RD projects; and to provide reports on RD projects to the Minister and prescribed horticultural bodies. The HRDC is empowered under the Act to do all things necessary or convenient for the performance of its functions, including applying for and dealing with patents; charging for its work, services, goods and information; making agreements for RD projects to be carried out by itself or others; and act as trustee of money and other property vested in it on trust. Funding of RD by the HRDC is on the basis of equal cost sharing by industry and the Commonwealth, with the Commonwealth matching expenditure on a dollar for dollar basis up to 0.5% of gross value of production of the particular industry.

The HRDC comprises a Chairman and a government member, both selected by the Minister, six members nominated by the HRDC Selection Committee and appointed by the Minister, and an Executive Director appointed by the HRDC. The six other members referred to above must possess qualifications relevant to, or have had experience in, one or more industry related fields, including: the growing or harvesting of horticultural products; the handling, storing, transporting, processing or marketing of horticultural products; finance; economics; and marketing. The powers of the Minister over the HRDC include to approve long-term RD plans and annual operational plans and appoint members to the HRDC on the recommendation of the HRDC Selection Committee.

Total HRDC income for 1988-89 was $598 988. This comprised $199 895 from levies; $370 000 in Commonwealth contribution; $24 293 in interest from investments; and $4800 from voluntary contributions. Total HRDC expenditure in 1988-89 was $455 864. This comprised $53 422 in administrative expenses; $177 836 in HRDC members salaries, fees and expenses; $184 754 in grants for RD; and $39 852 in levy collection costs 1. In 1988-89, the HRDC funded nine research projects for apples and pears and seven projects for citrus research. In addition, a project on carnation

planting stock was funded with support of a voluntary industry contribution. In addition, the HRDC sponsored a workshop on mite control in horticultural crops and supported a citrus research forum 2.

The amendments proposed by clauses 9-21 will bring the provisions of the Act dealing with the HRDC Selection Committee into line with provisions which apply to other rural RD corporations.

The principal changes to the current arrangements proposed by clauses 9-21 include: that the Minister is to appoint a Presiding Member of Selection Committees for the HRDC (clause 11); for the purpose of appointing and filling vacancies of HRDC members, the Minister is to write to the Presiding Member to request that a Selection Committee be established (clause 11); require Selection Committee's to specify how in their opinion a nomination or nominations will best ensure that the members of the HRDC will collectively possess an appropriate balance of expertise; and include in the selection criteria of nominee's of a Selection Committee, expertise in the fields of technology transfer, conservation and management of natural resources and environmental and ecological matters (clause 14). Where there is no function for a Selection Committee to perform, the Presiding Member must abolish the Selection Committee (clause 12). In addition, a Selection Committee is to comprise the Presiding Member and 4-6 other members appointed by the Minister; the Minister may appoint persons to be members of a Selection Committee where the Minister is satisfied that nominations for membership will not be made within a reasonable time (clause 17); and allow the Presiding Member, on behalf of a Selection Committee, to engage consultants (clause 21).

Amendments to the Plant Variety Rights Act 1987

The concept of Plant Variety Rights (PVR) is to grant a proprietary right to the breeder of new varieties of certain plants included in the regulations. Under the Plant Variety Rights Act 1987, breeders of new plant varieties can claim the exclusive rights to sell, or licence others to sell, plants or seeds of those varieties for a period of 20 years after they have been developed. The first genera and species included in the PVR Regulations included varieties of the apple, macadamia nut, oilseeds, beans, cotton, grasses, and kangaroo paw. PVR's are now available for over 90 plant species in Australia. On 14 February 1989, the Minister announced that a Queensland farming family has become the first in Australia to be granted a PVR. They have been granted a PVR for two new varieties of Macadamia nut 3.

A system of PVR's exists in many countries, including the UK, Japan, West Germany, the USSR, the US and New Zealand. In addition to being adopted by a number of countries, there is an international convention dealing with PVR's. The International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants was signed in 1961 and aims to ensure international protection for new plant varieties developed in member countries and to encourage new varieties. Under the Convention, standards for the testing and examination of new varieties have been issued and the Convention specifies that protection is to be a minimum of 18 years for grapevines, rootstock and trees and 15 years for all other plants.

Clause 27 provides that a person who selects a plant variety from a plant population that they have grown and which is distinguishable from all other plant varieties whose existence is common knowledge, will be taken to have originated the variety.

Clause 28 provides that PVR's are not to be granted for a plant variety if the plants of that variety are plants of a genus or species prescribed to be a genus or species to which the Act does not apply.

The effect of clause 29 will be to give a foreign breeder of a new plant variety who has filed an application for protection of that plant variety in a State which is a member under the Convention, and who lodges an application for protection in Australia, 12 month's priority, and as such protection, in respect of that plant variety over other claims for protection in Australia. This will enable Australia to comply with Article 12 of the Convention.

Amendments to the Wheat Industry Fund Levy Collection Act 1989

The Act provides the machinery for the collection of the levy imposed by the Wheat Industry Fund Levy Act 1989. This Act imposes a levy on the delivery, and processing by a grower, of wheat, other than that delivered for storage on the grower's behalf, to support research into the industry and the functions of the Australian Wheat Board. Section 5 of the Wheat Industry Fund Levy Collection Act 1989 provides that the levy on wheat is payable 28 days or such longer period as set by regulation, after delivery by the grower or is processing by, or for, the grower.

Clause 41 provides that the levy, at the end of the quarter, will become payable when wheat is processed by the grower and used for commercial processes.

Amendments to the Wheat Marketing Act 1989

The Act restructured the Australian Wheat Board and allowed corporations to market wheat in the domestic market and allowed greater competition in the transport and storage of grains. Prior to the start of each season, the Grains Council sets a percentage of the sale value of wheat subject to the Wheat Industry Fund Levy that is to be paid to the Australian Wheat Board to go into the Wheat Industry Fund and the Wheat Industry Research Fund. The minimum percentage for payment into the Fund is 2% and for the Research Fund 0.25%. Money in the Fund may be used by the Australian Wheat Board for such purposes as making higher advance payments, insurance, payment to the Commonwealth of levy collection costs, and any purpose approved by the Minister.

Clause 43 provides that, subject to the regulations, the Australian Wheat Board is to manage the Fund in each financial year according to the business plan approved by the Grains Council.

References

1. Horticultural Research Development Corporation, Annual Report 1988-89, p. 21.

2. Ibid., p. 12.

3. Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, Media Release, 27 February 1989.

Bills Digest Service 31 October 1990

Parliamentary Research Service

For further information, if required, contact the Economics and Commerce Group on 06 2772460.

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

Commonwealth of Australia 1990

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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1990.