- Current Issues
- Take Action
- Bills Introduced 2012
- Bills debated
- Budget Estimates Hearings
- Committee Reports
- Disallowance Motions
- Guide to Petitions
- How we can help
- Learn About Parliament
- Motions Debated
- Questions on Notice
- Questions without Notice 2009
- Questions without Notice 2010
- Questions without Notice 2011
GM Food Petition in WA
Extract from Hansard
[COUNCIL - Wednesday, 20 October 2010]
Hon Lynn MacLaren; Hon Ken Travers; Hon Norman Moore; Hon Ed Dermer
Hon LYNN MacLAREN:
I also am a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs
and I rise to speak to the seventeenth report. This is one of those reports, as Hon Brian Ellis mentioned, that was
largely done in the previous Parliament. Many of the petitions that were tabled were assessed by the previous
members of the committee. On joining this Parliament we were really catching up with the work that those
people had done. I just want to remind the house, because many members will have been here at that time—even
new members might be interested—that the scope of the work included the issue of the export of lead through
Fremantle port, which came up as a motion that was debated in this house. A lot of the valuable information that
was collected by this committee was used in the debate on that motion. As a new member when that motion was
debated, I found this report very useful.
The report covers other very important topics that are still current in this state, including increased funding for
social and community services organisations, which this committee looked at in detail. The committee also
looked at issues such as opposition to the closure of Royal Perth Hospital and the regional resource recovery
centre in Canning Vale, which initiated a much more comprehensive review of the way we handle municipal
waste. Therefore, a lot of valuable work was done by the previous committee and I give my thanks to that
committee for the work it has done.
I want to particularly draw the chamber’s attention to two minority reports, which are at the back of the
“Overview of Petitions” report, from Hon Paul Llewellyn, who was a member for South West who served on
this committee. He took a different view from the rest of this committee in relation to two petitions. One petition
was to do with planning in Margaret River whereby the Shire of Augusta – Margaret River town planning
scheme came up for careful assessment. As someone who looks after planning on behalf of the Greens, it was
one of the things that were drawn to my attention. This was an ongoing issue and even though the committee
looked at the petition and made a decision about it, Hon Paul Llewellyn took a different view and was able to put
his remarks down in a very short one-page minority report. If members have concerns about the shire town
planning scheme, which does come up from time to time, I draw their attention to that part of this report.
However, I wanted to save the majority of my time to discuss the minority report of Hon Paul Llewellyn on a
petition that was signed by more than 27 000 petitioners. As Hon Kate Doust said, it is not an easy task to get
support for a petition—27 000 represents a huge number of Western Australians who are very concerned about
this issue. That issue is the use of genetically modified organisms in Western Australia.
The minority report deals with the fact that when the new government was elected, the policy change in how we would deal with GM crops was considered to be a reason to close the committee inquiry into this issue. Hon Paul Llewellyn took a different view and he mentioned those issues that keep coming up in the house time and again in question time, and time and again when I am in the community talking to farmers and consumers who are interested in GM issues; that is, the potential for legal liability of non-GM farmers who are affected by GM crops growing next to them, the contractual arrangements that these farmers go into, and a certain company, Monsanto, which the Minister for Agriculture and Food mentioned today in response to a question that we asked about how GM crops were managed now that we are taking this post-gatekeeper approach.
Therefore, we still have these ongoing issues. Non-GM farmers are being unfairly penalised for their choice to not grow GM crops. That is an issue that the Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs was in a position to review and could have come out with some recommendations about but, unfortunately due to the change of government, this inquiry was—I suppose an unkind expression would be—guillotined.
Hon Robyn McSweeney: Before your time, in 2002, a committee which I was on travelled to Canada and the
US and then wrote a report of about 600 pages.
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I thank the minister; in fact, her interjection helps me describe why this point of view
is taken, because Hon Paul Llewellyn does mention that the previous committee inquiry into the Gene
Technology Bill did not fully cover or resolve the two issues of the strict legal liability regime and the health
impacts of GM.
Hon Kate Doust: That was because it was a limited inquiry and the terms that that committee travelled on were
limited to specific issues.
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: That is right, but those issues should have been or could have been investigated by
the petitions committee —
Hon Kate Doust: But they were issues that were determined by this house, from memory, that were referred to
the committee. That inquiry was not a self-referral; it was actually referred to the committee by the house with
quite clear terms of reference.
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: That is right, and Hon Paul Llewellyn was merely saying that we have
27 000 petitioners after that inquiry who are still concerned because the issues have not been dealt with
adequately. I put to members that potentially those issues are still ongoing. Certainly, that is what I hear. I
attended only yesterday a safe food forum by the local branch of the National Council of Women of Australia,
which had invited Dr Judy Carman to talk about her current research into GM and the feeding trials, which has
not really been done. This is a matter of safety; it is a very serious issue about the safety of our food. Dr Judy
Carman was in town to talk about exactly where we are up to. She is one of the leading scientists who are
looking into this only now, even though we have already opened the gate to the growing of GM crops. At that
forum, a non-GM organic farmer approached me and said how concerned he is about the potential for
contamination because he knows that a GM farmer is next door to him and he constantly has to test his crop to
ensure that his lucrative organic clean green world market is not forever lost because it is contaminated by the
GM growing next door.
I strongly believe that this state has not adequately dealt with protecting those farmers who do not want GM
contamination on their land and have gone to great lengths with sustainable practices of not overusing chemicals
and using organic materials so that they can take advantage of these lucrative markets. We should be looking
after them in a much better way, and I suggest that we have failed to do that in opening the gate to GM crops.
That is what Hon Paul Llewellyn said in his minority report. I draw members’ attention to the committee’s
report, “Overview of Petitions”, if they are interested in the outstanding issues of GM crops in this state, because
this committee puts so much work into research and puts together quite helpful reports. I encourage members to
have a look at the important information that has been gleaned through the many hours of research by this
committee and the research staff. Lastly, I commend the research staff for the very high quality of their work.