Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 688..
Statement by Speaker
MR SPEAKER: Members, earlier, in response to a growing mood that we might wish to consider notice No 1 later this day, I said to the Assembly that it was open to a member to move to suspend standing orders to deal with the matter and that that was their choice. In fact, there is another course: a member might wish to use standing order 192 and move to declare the bill an urgent bill. That is a choice for the Assembly to make in interim.
MS TUCKER (10.47): I move:
(1) notwithstanding the provisions of standing order 174, the Gene Technology Bill 2002 be referred to the Standing Committee on Health for inquiry and report;
(2) on the committee presenting its report on the Bill to the Assembly, resumption of debate on the question "That this Bill be agreed to in principle" be set down as an order of the day for the next sitting; and
(3) the foregoing provisions of this resolution have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
I propose this motion to refer the Gene Technology Bill 2002 to the health committee because of a number of concerns I have with it. This bill applies the Commonwealth Gene Technology Act 2000 to the ACT. The bill is virtually a mirror image of the Commonwealth legislation, with a few exceptions, and basically passes the administration of gene technology research and dealings in the ACT on to the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator within the Commonwealth government.
The bill derives from a national agreement reached last year between Commonwealth, state and territory governments over the management of gene technology activities in Australia. I have a general concern about where society is heading with gene technology. The technology has generally not yet been proven safe, particularly in regard to its impact on public health and the environment. There are also some ethical issues about the human manipulation of the basic building blocks of life.
It has to be remembered that gene technology is not the same as the crossbreeding of animals and plants that has happened for centuries. It is about the forced transfer of genes between what in the natural world would be incompatible species. Governments need to take a very precautionary approach to the development and use of gene technology.
However, there is commercial pressure from transnational agricultural and food companies to introduce genetically modified crops and foods as soon as possible as a way of boosting their profits and increasing their grip on the food supply chain-from the supply of seeds, fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides to the production of food products.