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Wednesday, 17 June 2020
Page: 3387


Senator STOKER (Queensland) (10:09): The Morrison government is very much committed to finding ways to continue to grow our agricultural sector, and AgriFutures, whose research is so very important to planning out policy in this area, have noted the potential future for the growth of the industrial hemp market worldwide. They've said:

There is a great opportunity for Australian growers to capitalise on growth of current and future products derived from industrial hemp with Global Market Insights predicting the market to surpass US$270 million in size globally, by 2025.

Most countries currently regulate unprocessed and semiprocessed plant products against the introduction of injurious plants, pests and diseases, but, up until recently, we've had some difficulties in being able to access some of those international markets that Australian growers might like to reach. This bill, the Export Control Legislation Amendment (Certification of Narcotic Exports) Bill 2020, ensures that there is the kind of legislative coverage needed to enable government certification for goods of this kind so that Australian growers have international market access. That means that we are complying with international agreements around this, like the International Plant Protection Convention, and it means that a problem faced at present, where the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment aren't able to issue government certificates to support the legitimate export of these goods, can be fixed so that those sorts of certifications can readily and easily be provided.

I must say this bill led me down a path of having to make some inquiries, because I'm on the record as being somebody who is antidrugs, in the narcotics sense, in every possible way. I'm always conscious of ways that we can reduce Australian people's use of harmful drugs. Despite the fact that there are some people out in the community who think drugs like marijuana are harmless, I think very differently, and I think that, once we start to tally up a lot of the mental and social costs associated with what some people pretend is harmless, it is exposed as nothing of the sort. But the inquiry I was led to by this bill was to find out precisely what kinds of things we were talking about under the heading of low-THC goods, low-THC hemp and medicinal cannabis products. I found it quite informative. I learned that the low-THC hemp, which is the subject of this bill, is a plant that's got 0.3 per cent or less of THC, which is the part of marijuana that gets a person high, so it's not a product that poses any kind of drug type risk. In fact, it's a really important agricultural product.

The hemp seed—of course, the variety that doesn't have those potentially harmful drug-like attributes—when hulled and unable to germinate, is a food product that is used by many. Again, I'm assured that it is not something that's harmful at all. I found the other uses for the hemp plant pretty interesting too. It's a really important fibre that is used in the production of fabrics and textiles, and those fabric, textile and food uses can provide a great opportunity for Australian farmers to diversify the crops they grow so that they are more resilient for different environmental and market circumstances. Anything that gives agricultural communities more of the choice and flexibility they need to be viable has to be a good thing. Medicinal cannabis in this country is heavily regulated but legal. While I'm not an enthusiast for it, the very tight controls that we have around it in this country are maintained by this bill. In circumstances where that is legal here and legal in other places, there's not really much of a reason why we should stop high-quality Australian farmers from being able to access those important markets.

So I commend the bill to the Senate. I think it is an important measure that we can implement to create better market access for Australian producers. Every thing we can do to ensure their ability to be viable, their ability to contribute to our economy, their ability to employ and their ability to continue to invest in the communities in which they grow has to be a good thing.