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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 3156 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

Mr Speaker, the responses can be categorised. Some have been agreed to. We had asked the government to write to the ministerial council or the regulator or to other governments. In some cases the government says, "Yes, we can write to other bodies."

In recommendation 2 we suggested that there be a relationship with New South Wales about concerns regarding cross-border GMO contamination. That one's agreed to, and discussions have commenced with New South Wales representatives.

But when you go to some of the other areas, the government doesn't believe that it's appropriate for them to be talking to the OGTR or indeed to the ministerial council, which I think is disappointing. Thereby the opportunity goes out the window.

If you look at the issue of creating the ACT as a GE-free zone, the government agrees in part but it does say:

It is the Government's view that the establishment of a broad ACT moratorium is not required at this stage.

Part of what the committee was trying to simply say was that there are some elements in questions and there are some opportunities here-an opportunity to actually be GE free.

When you get economies like Japan and China saying they will not accept more GE modified food, there is a market there-a very large market-for a country that keeps itself GE free. Australia at this stage could take that opportunity up, use it as a marketing ploy and, instead of ending up like some of the North American agricultural communities, which are riddled with GE crops and the mistakes that stem from them, actually have a fantastic opportunity to say that this is the country that's different from all the rest; our produce is best; buy our produce. I don't believe, given what we heard through the committee and through consultation with the community, that there is any risk in that. I believe it's a fantastic opportunity.

Now that's not to say that research shouldn't go on, and the committee was quite clear that research is important. But you have to have a structure set up to deal with that research.

Recommendation 4 from the committee suggested that the ministerial council move gene technology responsibility to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. We saw the only way to keep this as an across-government issue, and not let it be captured by, for instance, agricultural ministers councils or health ministers councils, was to actually have it situated with Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Health Minister will write, if he hasn't done so already, to the Gene Technology Ministerial Council, requesting that they consider that suggestion.

I would thank the government for that. That is absolutely important if we're going to get consistency and appropriate standards on this. So to the government: "Thanks very much."

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