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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3391 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

Taking the line that these organisms do not, at present, appear to have any adverse effects on the environment is just not good enough. Saying that the Gene Technology Regulator says the modified gene is safe, at the moment, is not good enough. In fact, the language used is often, "With the information available at the moment, we do not believe the organism presents a threat to the environment."I am sorry, but this is simply not good enough for me.

As legislators, we need to be as careful as we can, especially when dealing with new situations. Ms Tucker's amendments use the term "precautionary principle". This is exactly what the scientists in the 1970s were talking about-making sure that what you are releasing is not going to have a negative effect. This is the responsible method we should be following-not the alternative where someone can give a qualified statement that things look okay at the moment.

Gene technology is an important area of science and will probably be very beneficial to us, in time. Maybe one day it will help us feed the world, as the publicity says. Maybe we will find that the health benefits are wonderful and add value to our lives.

Members may remember that I raised issues relating to gene technology last week, in a matter of public importance. I am concerned that we must protect the population from any misuse of genetic information. There is a bill being drafted, at the moment, to protect against genetic discrimination.

We need to make sure we are not handing problems on for the next generation to deal with. Remember the problems with other scientific wonders, such as DDT and arsenic dips for sheep. We have only one world, and we have a responsibility to make sure the next generation does not suffer because of our inability to make the right decision.

The principle of precaution in respect of scientific developments is extremely important. If necessary, we should lead the country and make the correct decision. Once again, I will be supporting Ms Tucker's amendments and encourage other members to do the same.

Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth ) adjourned to a later hour.

Animal and Plant Diseases Amendment Bill 2003

Debate resumed from 3 April 2003, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS DUNNE (4.29): The Liberal opposition will be supporting this bill. The amendments to the Animal Diseases Act and the Plant Diseases Act are important and come about principally as a result of the foot and mouth disease exercise last year-Operation Minotaur. In Operation Minotaur, issues of the commencement of declarations of quarantine were brought into focus. The problem that currently exists with section 73 of the Legislation Act is that a disallowable instrument such as a quarantine declaration does not normally come into operation until the day after the declaration is made.

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