Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 690 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
The scrutiny committee raised one aspect of this legislation: whether or not the fee could be seen to be a tax and whether it is appropriate that such a thing should occur through subordinate legislation. It is usually not seen by people in this place to be appropriate, and that is another issue we would look at as a committee.
MR SMYTH (10.53): Mr Speaker, as the Liberal Party representative on this committee, I am pleased that we are taking this issue seriously and that we are reviewing the legislation. The previous government representative, Mr Moore, was quite instrumental in making sure that the framework and the network set up to monitor gene modification and technology were appropriate, and this is the ACT legislation that will copy the federal legislation set up as a consequence of some of that work of Mr Moore. I am delighted to have an opportunity for our committee to look at this.
MR WOOD (Minister for Urban Services and Minister for the Arts) (10.54): The government supports this referral. This bill has been a long time coming. Members of the Assembly have been pretty well informed throughout that period. It is very significant legislation, and further consideration is appropriate.
MS DUNDAS (10.55): I rise on behalf of the Australian Democrats to also support this motion. This bill sets up a structural framework. It is, by regulation, the ministerial council decisions and the work of the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator that will provide the details, and it is these provisions, not the bill in itself, that need to be scrutinised.
As has been mentioned, this bill was a result of federal legislation that followed extensive hearings of the Senate Community Affairs References Committee. I would encourage all members to read the report by that committee entitled, A cautionary tale: fish don't lay tomatoes, as it provides an excellent background to the issue of gene technology.
Further to that, the Tasmanian parliament held a joint select committee inquiry into gene technology with wide-ranging terms of reference: economic factors, primary industries, ethics and consumer concerns. The New South Wales Parliament Standing Committee on State Development has inquired into and reported on genetically modified foods. These are some of the precedents of other parliaments that have inquired into the important issue of gene technology.
As you will appreciate, the success of the gene technology regulatory system is strongly reliant on community confidence and the ability to access accurate information and education in regard to gene tech advances and developments. The community, and the Assembly as their representatives, need to be informed of developments in the area as they occur, and this inquiry is the first step in a long journey of learning, monitoring and keeping a strict regulatory scheme for gene technology.
I hope that this committee will be able to report back on some of the gaps that need to be filled in this area. One question is whether the ACT government, like the Tasmanian government, will consider use of the opt-out provision for the states and territories wanting to make their own determinations with respect to GMOs and the extent to which they are pursued by local industries. Other questions still stand as to the cost recovery of