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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 3212 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

in more detail. Democrats across the country have long been irked by the view that governments can make agreements at a national level when they do not necessarily have the ability to deliver on these promises in their own parliaments. The ACT is a diverse community and a number of voices continually wish to be heard. Even though I have already stressed the importance of having a national framework, we do need to recognise that there are voices that are being left out of this debate because of the way that it has been brought together on a national level.

An important part of the agreement is that state and territory governments have been allowed the scope to implement moratoriums on gene technology where they believe that that is appropriate. The particular case of Tasmania is one of note. They have elected to implement a complete moratorium on gene technology. As an island state, being separated from the rest of Australia, Tasmania can actually enforce a complete moratorium on gene technology.

There have been suggestions that we consider having a moratorium in the ACT, although I believe that it might be useful to consider further the form such a moratorium would take. In particular, we have a high concentration of biological research in Canberra, particularly at the CSIRO and the ANU, and I think that we should promote the safe development and research of gene technologies in Canberra, especially in relation to techniques that may reduce the harmful impacts of genetic technology, as well as pure research that investigates the operation of genes in the natural environment and the human body. In essence, we should be promoting the benefits and positive outcomes of genetic technology.

On the other hand, the ACT has only a small area of land that is devoted to agriculture and it is generally unsuitable for the types of genetically modified crops that are being grown commercially. I think it would be prudent for the ACT to enact a moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms until there has been at least greater community debate and scientific inquiry as to the safety, environmental consequences and desirability of producing GMOs for commercial release in the ACT. I am not saying that we should bury our heads in the sand and ignore GMOs or gene technology altogether. We should encourage research, but well monitored research and strictly regulated research in the ACT so that we can lead the way and better understand the concepts that we are talking about when we look at genetic technology.

I note that a number of the amendments to this bill that were circulated last year have been taken up by the government. They are technical in nature, but bring the legislation into line with other parts of the ACT's statute book and I will be supporting those amendments when moved by the minister. I understand that Ms Tucker would like to debate further in the in-principle stage the implementation of the precautionary principle. I look forward to that debate. I think that that is an important part of what we have been discussing in terms of genetic technology.

MR CORNWELL (5.14): Mr Speaker, the Chief Minister, in his tabling statement, said:

...the bill reflects a national framework for overseeing gene technology activities. Its objective is to protect the health and safety of the community and

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