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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 4394 ..

MS MacDONALD (continuing):

Having seen it in black and white, I can say that they certainly show up a lot better in colour.

I do commend the report to the house, although I maintain my concerns.

MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (12.18): Mr Speaker, the traditional method for a member of a committee to disagree with a committee or its outcomes is to either put in a dissenting report or modify the report. I have to say I am disappointed in some of the words that Ms MacDonald has used to suggest that we rushed the report, that there was a period of inactivity and that it could have been delayed.

I was certainly working on the report throughout the whole period. I was talking to the communities, both scientific and farming, to get their opinions, and my office still receives faxes of newspaper clippings from around the country from different groups that have an interest in this. I know that Ms Tucker's office is the same, because we have discussed this. We have discussed things that we have learned and have conveyed those messages to each other to make sure that we were both being kept up to date. I know that Ms Tucker has also worked continuously and quite hard on this.

It is disappointing that Ms MacDonald has not used the acceptable method of dissent, but instead has chosen to stand up here and say that she now qualifies her support for the report. You either support the report or you do not, and then you should dissent. I think it is unfortunate that this has happened. It is a first, in my time here in the Assembly, that somebody would make such a statement. I know that I was busy. I know that Ms Tucker was busy. I know the secretariat was very busy working on this throughout the whole period. If Ms MacDonald was not busy then perhaps she should look at what she was doing, rather than coming here and qualifying her support for a report which she has signed. I think that is extraordinary.

It is a very important report, it is a very important issue and it is a very important issue not just for us in the ACT, but for Australia as a country with its place in the world. It is important because we are at a crossroad: countries will have to decide whether they will have a mass rollout of GM technology, or whether they will abstain. One of the consistent messages that the committee received was that, once you pass down this road, you cannot come back. Once you release GM crops, you cannot take them back. Once they are out there, they will spread, through either natural means-the wind and animals-or through the inadequacies of systems that people set up, simply by accident or through lack of attention.

It is an important issue. The matter of whether or not we have a moratorium is something that should be taken seriously. When the committee agreed to a five-year moratorium, it was done in the knowledge that moratoriums can, of course, be unwound or stopped, but they can also continue and may even be extended. Some of the information that the committee was given was particularly interesting: some Asian countries are now saying they will not accept GM products. At this stage, Australia sends uncontaminated products overseas, which gives us a natural competitive edge in servicing those markets.

Why would you give that away? If you do choose to give it away, you have to be certain that you are giving it away for long-term gain. Again, the evidence given to the committee by bodies such as the productivity commission suggests that there is the

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