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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 30 June 2004) . . Page.. 3009 ..

Wednesday, 30 June 2004

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Hemp Fibre Industry Facilitation Bill 2004

Mrs Burke, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MRS BURKE (10.34): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

It gives me great pleasure today to table the Hemp Fibre Industry Facilitation Bill 2004 and for this opportunity to speak to the bill. Having spoken extensively to those in the industry, both interstate and here in the ACT, I know this is an exciting opportunity to establish a hemp fibre industry here in the ACT.

The production of hemp as a fibre is not new. It has a plethora of benefits for both our community in general and our education system, through vocational education and training opportunities, and of course it is a key industry driver. I will address these issues shortly. However, allow me, Mr Speaker, to highlight quickly the history of hemp fibre use.

From the times of the Phoenicians to the age of steamships, 90 per cent of all ships sails were made from hemp, as were the rigging, anchor ropes, nets, flags and shrouds. Until about the 1820s in the USA and up to the 20th century elsewhere, hemp provided 80 per cent of the textiles and fabrics for clothes, linens, rugs, drapes, quilts, sheets, towels, nappies et cetera. In fact, as some may know, the first Levis jeans in 1853 were made from hemp fibre, with over 5,000 different textile products being made from hemp fibres since. Hemp is viewed to be softer, warmer, more water absorbent and more durable than cotton. It also has three times the tensile strength of cotton.

Let us look at the environmental issues. There are also a number of environmental benefits of industrial hemp. Hemp is two to three times more productive than cotton and uses half the water as well as half the fertiliser. Hemp also, unlike cotton, requires no pesticides or herbicides. As a result, industrial hemp is cheaper to produce, more productive and is an environmentally friendly alternative for farmers.

From an economic and environmental perspective, hemp fibre has also been shown to be an excellent composite binder within building products like medium density fibreboard, more commonly known as MDF. As a result, industrial hemp fibre has been shown to reduce the use of conventional chemicals like formaldehyde and associated wastes that are used in composite construction and ones that clearly harm the environment—firstly, the land, and then our river systems. I am no expert on this aspect but have taken advice and I am sure others in this place will be able to add something here.

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