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Tuesday, 2 May 1989
Page: 1618


Senator WALSH (Minister for Finance)(9.29) —

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

This Bill is an omnibus Bill for legislation administered within the Primary Industries and Energy portfolio. Its introduction will facilitate the passage of amendments to existing legislation.

The Bill contains minor administrative amendments to the Dairy Produce Act 1986 and the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Act 1964 and repeals the redundant Derby Jetty Agreement Act 1962, Oil Companies (Stock Loss Reimbursement) Act 1986, Pipeline Construction (Dalton to Canberra) Act 1980, Pipeline Construction (Young to Wagga Wagga) Act 1980, South Australia Grant (Fruit Canneries) Act 1971, States Grants (Fruit-growing Reconstruction) Acts of 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1976, Victoria Grant (Shepparton Preserving Company Limited) Act 1971 and Wheat Industry Stabilization Fund (Disposal) Act 1962. These amendments will be self evident and are sufficiently explained in the Explanatory Memorandum circulated with the Bill. I propose to confine my comments to addressing the more significant changes which will be made by the Bill.

Plant Variety Rights Act 1987

Sections 12 and 38 of the Plant Variety Rights Act 1987 will be amended to give the grantee of Plant Variety Rights the right to produce (or licence others to produce) plants or reproductive material of the protected variety for the commercial production of fruit, flowers or other products of the variety.

The present Act does not recognise the practical difference between propagation from seed and the much more rapid process of asexual reproduction. It allows a person to buy a small number of protected plants from the breeder and in a short time asexually propagate a commercial planting. If only the product such as fruit and cut flowers are sold, and not the plants or reproductive material, the Act is not infringed and the grower rather than the breeder of the new variety receives the commercial gain.

The objective of the Act is to stimulate plant breeding by giving sole rights to the breeder for a period of 20 years. This was not happening under the present provisions.

Overseas countries and the International Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV) Convention have provisions similar to those proposed in this amendment.

Sections 18 and 28 are being amended to ensure that public notice of decisions is given as soon as possible but provides the flexibility needed for the quarterly publication of the Plant Varieties Journal.

Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Legislation

The Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Exploration Permit Fees) Act 1967, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Pipeline Licence Fees) Act 1967, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Production Licence Fees) Act 1967, Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Registration Fees) Act 1967, and the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) (Retention Lease Fees) Act 1985 contain provisions for the charging of fees for applications and annual rentals for titles granted by the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 and for registration of dealings affecting, and transfers of, titles.

Amendments in this Bill will enable the determination of the level of application and rental fees, minimum registration fees and securities required under the legislation, by regulation rather than by amending the principal Act. This will enable the timely adjustment of these fees and securities so that they more closely reflect actual administrative costs. All fees collected in respect of the State and Northern Territory adjacent areas are paid to the States/Northern Territory in recognition of the costs incurred in administering day-to-day petroleum activities in these areas.

An amendment will also abolish the provision for refunds of application fees to unsuccessful applicants for titles under the legislation. Experience with administering the legislation has shown that costs of assessing applications are the major costs involved in the application process and the abolition of refunds will enable application fees to reflect actual administrative costs incurred.

Another amendment will enable a fee to be charged for an application for a special prospecting authority. Again this change will more closely align fees with administrative costs.

Under the existing legislation, renewals of titles can only be granted to the applicant for the renewal. In such cases it has been necessary to postpone approval and registration of a transfer until after the renewal has been granted. An amendment will enable the timely approval and registration of transfers which otherwise would be held up until a renewal of a title is granted.

Seismic surveys and other types of surveys undertaken by holders of special prospecting authorities over vacant acreage are an important factor in stimulating interest in offshore petroleum exploration and competition in bidding for exploration acreage. An amendment will facilitate such activities by enabling holders of special prospecting authorities to apply for an access authority to adjoining title areas in order to link new surveys with existing surveys or wells. In such cases the Designated Authority will be expected to take account of the views of affected titleholders before granting an access authority. Holders of special prospecting authorities will be expected to comply with any special conditions applying to the area covered by the access authority and not interfere with the activities of titleholders. At present, holders of special prospecting authorities must rely on an existing titleholder to apply on their behalf for approval to undertake the survey in the title area.

Another amendment will facilitate the provision of access authorities to enable access to adjoining acreage which is administered by a different State or Territory. The amendment will enable a titleholder, or holder of a special prospecting authority, to apply to the relevant Designated Authority for an access authority in an adjoining adjacent area thus ensuring that a titleholder only has to seek approval from one Designated Authority.

However, the amendment will ensure that the consent of the Designated Authority for the adjoining adjacent area is gained prior to the granting of the access authority. The holders of such authorities will be expected to comply with any special conditions applying to the area covered by the access authority.

The repeal of section 57 of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act will remove the requirement to undertake a minimum amount of work or produce an equivalent value of petroleum, in production licence areas. This will enable production licence holders to determine their own investment priorities. However, the Government still has powers under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act to require a discovery to be developed at specific production rates.

The amendments will have no net impact on the Commonwealth budgetary position as any increased revenue from fees will be offset by payments of those increased fees to the State/Northern Territory. Those payments will assist the States and the Northern Territory in recovering costs they incur on behalf of the Commonwealth in the administration of offshore petroleum activities in adjacent areas.

The proposed amendments to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) legislation have been the subject of consultation with the States, the Northern Territory and the industry and have general support. They are essential to the effective and efficient administration of the Commonwealth's offshore petroleum legislation.

Tobacco Marketing Act 1965

The proposal to change the name of the Australian Tobacco Board to the Australian Tobacco Marketing Advisory Committee follows a review of the Board carried out in conjunction with Government consideration of the assistance arrangements to apply to the tobacco growing and manufacturing industries.

Legislation to give effect to the assistance arrangements announced by the Government on 19 November 1988 will be introduced separately. This Bill is proposed to give effect to the name change foreshadowed in that announcement.

The Australian Tobacco Board, established by the Tobacco Marketing Act 1965, comprises representatives of tobacco growers, manufacturers, the Commonwealth and the three States in which tobacco is grown. The Board's principal task is to administer the tobacco industry stabilisation plan which is primarily directed at increasing the competitiveness of the tobacco leaf growing industry. The plan, which was recently extended to 1993, is the final in a series of five year plans which commenced in 1965.

In pursuing stabilisation plan objectives, the Board makes recommendations to Commonwealth and State Ministers responsible for agriculture on annual determinations of tobacco leaf prices and quotas. The Board acts largely as a negotiating forum and has no role in the receival, handling or sale of tobacco leaf. The latter functions are carried out by statutory leaf marketing boards in the tobacco growing States.

The name change proposed reflects the Board's major function of advising Ministers on prices and quotas. It also recognises that its functions differ from those of the main body of statutory marketing authorities within the primary industry portfolio to which recent major policy and legislative reforms were directed. The Bill is confined therefore to giving effect to the name change and a minor operational amendment made necessary by the abolition of the Public Service Board.

As the Australian Tobacco Board is named in complementary State legislation, the name change will not take effect for six months so that States may legislate for a common date of effect.

None of the proposed amendments have any significant financial impact.

I commend the Bill to honourable Senators, and present the explanatory memorandum to this Bill.

Debate (on motion by Senator Puplick) adjourned.