Page 1153 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 8 April 2008

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review process identified as an overlap. The new committee will carry the combined functions of both former committees, as well as providing advice on risk communication and community consultation in relation to intentional release licence applications.

In summary, the amendments made by this bill will implement the recommendations of the review requiring legislative change, namely introducing emergency powers, giving the commonwealth minister the ability to expedite the approval of dealing with a GMO in an emergency; improving the mechanism for providing advice to the Gene Technology Regulator and the Gene Technology Ministerial Council on ethics and community consultations; streamlining the process for the initial consideration of licences; reducing the regulatory burden for low-risk dealings; providing clarification on the circumstances in which licence variations can be made; clarifying the circumstances under which the regulator can direct a person to comply with the act; providing the regulator with the power to issue a licence to persons who find themselves inadvertently dealing with an unlicensed GMO for the purpose of disposing of that organism; and making technical amendments to improve the operation of the act.

The Victorian parliament has already passed nationally consistent legislation which applies the Gene Technology Act of the commonwealth as a law of the state. New South Wales and the Northern Territory automatically refer to the commonwealth act and do not require amending legislation. The ACT introduced this amending legislation on 6 December 2007. The remaining states undertake to use their best endeavours to introduce corresponding legislation into their parliaments by the end of 2007.

This bill continues to require the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator to prepare comprehensive risk assessment advice on applications for licences, including consideration of containment and disposal issues, before circulating the RAA to all jurisdictions for comment prior to the issuing of any licences for GMOs.

I would also like to take this opportunity to advise that, due to an administrative error, new text is required for clause 25 of the explanatory statement to this bill. This substitution is a correction and in no way alters the substance or intent of the bill. Clause 25 should read:

Omit everything after “earlier” and substitute “than-” and insert new sub-paragraphs 52 (2) (d) (i) and 52 (2) (d) (ii).

Clause 25 would provide for a longer consultation process where the regulator considers that the GMO poses a significant risk to the health and safety of people or the environment and contains a statement to that effect. The item proposes to insert two new subparagraphs into section 52 (2) (d) of the act. The proposed section 52 (d) (i) would provide that the time period for submissions must be at least 50 days if the regulator is satisfied that the dealings pose a significant risk. The proposed section 52 (2) (d) (ii) would provide for a 30-day period for all other dealings.

I believe that the Gene Technology Amendment Bill, in conjunction with the commonwealth act, meets the objective of providing a nationally consistent regulatory

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