Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 6 June 2017) . . Page.. 1892 ..
consistent and efficient. However, we must also ensure that we have a fair and thorough regulatory framework underpinned by scientific evidence to protect public health and the environment. This bill achieves the right balance. I commend this bill to the Assembly.
MS FITZHARRIS (Yerrabi—Minister for Health, Minister for Transport and City Services and Minister for Higher Education, Training and Research) (10.41), in reply: I am pleased the Assembly is today debating the Gene Technology Amendment Bill 2017. As members have noted, in Australia research on and release of genetically modified organisms is regulated under a commonwealth licensing scheme underpinned by the commonwealth Gene Technology Act 2000. I recognise that research to develop new genetic technologies and the commercial use of GMOs in medicine and agriculture has remained an area of broad public interest since the licensing scheme was established in 2001.
Because protecting the health and safety of people and protecting the environment through robust regulation of gene technology is important, the ACT government has supported the national licensing scheme since its inception. With the other states and territories we are a party to the gene technology agreement under which jurisdictional governments and the commonwealth have committed to maintaining a nationally consistent approach to research on and use of GMOs as well as a register of GMOs which the regulator has licensed.
In order to achieve a nationally consistent approach, the commonwealth scheme is enacted through corresponding legislation in states and territories. In the ACT this is the ACT Gene Technology Act 2003. In August 2015 the commonwealth Department of Health advised the ACT government that amendments had been made to the Commonwealth Gene Technology Act. Under the GTA we are required to make corresponding amendments to the ACT legislation to ensure consistency. The ACT Gene Technology Act aligns with the changes made to the commonwealth Gene Technology Act. This reinforces the ACT government’s commitment to ensuring a nationally consistent approach to regulating GMOs in the best interests of the community.
The amendments to the GT act required to bring it into line with the changes outlined in the commonwealth GT amendment bill 2015 are relatively minor amendments which draw on the practical experiences of the Gene Technology Regulator and are designed to improve the efficiency of the gene technology regulatory regime. I am pleased to note that, although minor, these changes improve the capacity of the regulator to make rigorous assessments of applications to license dealings with genetically modified organisms. This includes, for example, authorising the regulator to apply risk assessment and management plans more broadly between licences when considering whether to extend the scope of license to deal with a GMO.
Many of the amendments to the ACT GT act are administrative or technical, such as mirroring the Gene Technology Regulator’s move from quarterly to annual reports in our schedule for tabling those reports in the Assembly. In particular, these amendments provide for the addition of a new section 136(1A) of the GT act to detail