Genetically Modified Crops Management (Designated Area) Amendment Bill

12th May 2020


Second Reading 

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (16:00): I rise as a former farmer and, sadly, there are not a great deal of us with primary production experience. I know the minister, who will sum up this debate, is one of those. I understand that our newest member of this chamber also has some experience in the primary production sector. It may not be the growing of grain, but I acknowledge her experience in that area as well. 

I rise to support this legislation. I would like initially to note that, while there may be people here who highlight the things that this bill does not do, that it does not satisfy everybody, I think this bill and the negotiations that are taking place between minister Whetstone and the opposition’s primary industry spokesman, the member for Giles, have been a very good example of what can be done to get the best possible result for, let’s face it, the people who are actually the practitioners out there, who are growing the grain in South Australia, who have been very good at it and want the ability to be able to do that into the future. So I give credit to minister Whetstone and Mr Hughes for the way they have worked. 

I know the member for Giles has been working away over many months to try to get the Labor Party to see that this is the way forward for South Australia. I know there are some significant agitators in the Labor Party who are dead against this, but I give credit to Mr Hughes for the way he has worked not only with members of the select committee going back a number of months ago, which I was one of, but also particularly in relation to the minister. Of course, the minister has been prepared, I think in consultation with the broad representatives of industry, to come up with some sensible compromise, so I give him credit for that. 

I did spend a number of months, probably longer than that, on the select committee into that issue that was initiated by the Hon. Mr Darley as part of the arrangement that I think he came to with the Hon. Mr Parnell at the death knock of the previous parliament. I give credit to the Hon. Mr Darley as chairman of the committee and the Hon. Mr Parnell and the Hon. Ms Bourke for the way in which we all worked together to get the best information. 

I did speak on the report of that committee, and I will repeat a few of the things that I said on that occasion. Firstly, I said on 30 October 2019: 

I very much support the position that the Hon. Mr Darley and I reached, that the moratorium be retained for Kangaroo Island but lifted for the rest of South Australia. I do that on the basis that, in an overwhelming manner I think, there was evidence that reinforced my view that the farming sector in South Australia, which is highly regarded around the world and has been for decades, deserves the opportunity to have the choice of growing genetically modified crops within their rotation schedule. 

It is something that happens everywhere else in Australia. 

If we go a bit further down in what I said on that occasion, I will quote again from that speech: 

We had evidence of where some of the leading researchers in this state, who would have been the natural beneficiaries of money from the grain sector in doing further research, missed out on the tender and the tender was given to a university in Victoria. That university in Victoria then handed the tender back to the South Australian researchers on the proviso that they had to do the work in the Wimmera of Victoria. If that is not bizarre, then I do not know what is. In my time as a person involved in the farming sector, the quality of our research here and the terrific development in varieties suitable to our climate has been highly regarded around the world and has been taken up in other parts of the world. We need to do everything we can to make sure that that research capacity is enhanced and that we do not lose those people from South Australia. 

I also want to highlight one of the key things, I think, in the evidence we took in that committee, which was about the industry’s, and particularly the grain handling sector’s, ability to deal with segregation. 

As someone who has been around the grain industry most of my life, the ability to have advanced scientific segregation regimes is one that I am so impressed with, because it has come so far from my early days as a grain grower. Yes, we hear about the fears of people growing things next to other people and contaminating things, but the great majority of people who farm respect their neighbours and actually work with their neighbours. 

I think I remember minister Whetstone himself quoting the fact that—not that this was grain, but in the horticultural industry—in the neighbouring property he had an organic farmer who had different principles and practices to his own, but they respected each other and they got on and excelled in their own particular ways. That is the way that most farmers do it. It is a little bit like neighbours: yes, there are neighbourly disputes, but the great majority of people respect each other and get on with it. The basis of this legislation is working to actually make use of that attitude, I think. 

Once again, I think it is time for us to get on with it. It has been a very long saga. South Australia has been left out on its own in Australian agricultural terms. We have shown and we have demonstrated for decades our ability to be leaders in the agricultural sector, and I think it is time that we respected that. 

In closing, the Hon. Mr Parnell, whom I have great respect for, even though we have very different views on this matter, talked about the legacy of this government in relation to this matter. I think it will be a proud legacy. There has been reference today to some very well educated young farmers who want to advance the economy of this state, and this legislation will allow them to do so. With those remarks, I support the second reading.