Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:42:41): I am pleased to rise to speak to the Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill 2019. As previous speakers have mentioned, this is largely an omnibus bill that covers many areas of the industry. In fact it is very diverse.
It really covers everything that has been on my plate all week. I am on the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee with Mrs McArthur, and I think probably one of the liveliest SARC meetings was when we went through the Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill, which does seem remarkable.
There was much conversation about broilers, and I think some disappointment that that part of our history is now gone. I recognise that it was probably gone 15 years ago, but we are seeing the end of the broiler, recognising the broiler industry. I think where we got very detailed was with the amendments to the Dairy Act 2000.
Of course when you start thinking about what animals provide milk, the mind goes. I could not help thinking of a film with Robert De Niro called Meet the Fockers. I do not know if many people recall the milking the cat scene in that film—
Ms PATTEN: I did, and in milking the cat. I am certain that my good friend and colleague Mr Meddick would not be supportive of cat milking, but I am now intrigued by it. Then we turned to discussing camel milk and what it tastes like. I understand that camel chocolate tastes like caramel—
Ms Pulford: It’s awesome.
Ms PATTEN: Thank you, Ms Pulford. Apparently camel chocolate is awesome. I then had this recollection that camel milk is used as a beauty product, and Mr Quilty then reminded me of that. But the real beauty milk is donkey milk.
I am looking forward to a Victorian industry in donkey milk, because that is what Cleopatra used to maintain her beauty. She bathed in the milk of 700 donkeys. I am not sure whether that was on a daily basis or a monthly basis. I am not sure how often the Egyptians bathed. But the bill gave rise to a great many conversations.
There were some concerns about it, but for Northern Metropolitan Region, it brings the Melbourne Market Authority Act 1977 into line with the fact that the Melbourne market has moved; it moved a couple of years ago. It allows the authority to make decisions about when it meets, if it needs to meet and various other things.
The main area that I would really like to focus on today is the amendments to the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981, and I ask for my amendments to be circulated at this time.
Fiona Patten’s Reason Party amendments circulated by Ms PATTEN pursuant to standing orders.
Ms PATTEN: I am extremely pleased that the government will make these amendments, and I am very pleased to be part of a cross-party task force with Minister Symes and Ms Cupper in the other place. The task of the task force is to look at how we can grow and promote the Victorian hemp industry. It is a burgeoning industry.
We have a great deal of optimism for what it can be. I am sure that many of us have started investigating hemp products, whether that is hemp seed on our breakfast cereal or our yoghurt, or whether it is hemp clothing. We are seeing hemp really come into the marketplace.
There were some recent changes to our food regulations, which allow for hemp seed to be used as a food rather than for everything else. I used to buy my hemp seed from my local grocery store, and over the packet it had a sticker saying that it was for body scrubbing, not for eating. They now do not have to put that sticker on it; you can now eat the hemp seed. But there is much potential for this industry.
We know that hemp is stronger than cotton, it requires less water to grow, it is a softer product and it is certainly a far more environmentally friendly product to produce. In looking at where else we can go, we are looking at hemp plastics and at hemp in so many other areas, including looking at hemp as a biomass fuel.
The options for this plant are rather spectacular in the variety of uses for which it can be used. However, for some reason industrial hemp and the licensing for the growing of industrial hemp sits within the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act. Let us be very clear: hemp is not marijuana.
If you were to smoke hemp, nothing would happen. You may get a cough, but there are no psychoactive substances in hemp. There is no reason why hemp should not be treated as any other fibre product, such as cotton and other fibre products. But at the moment it is very strictly licensed.
Every single hemp crop must be investigated. It must be sampled, and it must be checked by Agriculture Victoria for any THC content to ensure that it has a very, very low content. This must be done in accordance with a whole bunch of regulations. The sample must not exceed 0.35 per cent THC, which is actually the lowest percentage in the country.
It seems that the unspoken reason for hemp being in the drugs act is that somehow people will sneak in some marijuana plants in their hemp crops and grow those and not be caught. Frankly that is just not possible. Even if you were to sneakily put some illicit marijuana plants in there, the fact that it would cross-pollinate with hemp would make those plants null and void and not worth smoking anyway. It just does not work.
With respect—and I have had conversations with the minister about this—I do think that these added conditions on the licensing of hemp cultivars are not necessary and will possibly discourage people from entering into the hemp market. The consequence of this bill is that we will treat hemp in the same way as we treat alkaloid opium poppies.
If you were to smoke one of those poppies, you would not get high, you would die. We have seen that in Tasmania. These are poppies that are creating a very, very strong medication, and Australia is one of the leaders and Victoria has a growing poppy industry, and I think that is very valuable. But to consider hemp the same as the poppy industry makes very little sense.
My amendments to this legislation are very simple: that effectively we repeal the clause to make it like that. The meaning of ‘offence’ in the legislation as it is proposed would mean that a hemp grower who had a son-in-law who may have been picked up for having a joint and had been prosecuted for the possession of a drug would not be able to have a licence.
These are companies that are now on the stock exchange. These are companies that are growing, and I think really we need to be encouraging these companies. We need to move beyond still trying to treat them as if they are somehow involved in the illicit market, because that is not what they are.
They are now getting involved in the plastics market. They are now getting involved in the building market. They are now getting involved in the food market. They are now getting involved in the cosmetics market. These are companies and farms that have great potential.
I am encouraged by some of the conversations I have had with the minister, but I would with respect encourage the government to reconsider clause 7 in this legislation and certainly consider removing it from there. In fact I do not think hemp should be in the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 anyway; it should just be in the primary industries act. I am putting these amendments up here today.
I am confident that this industry has a great future in Victoria, and I know the task force is very committed to ensuring that that occurs, that we grow this industry, that Victoria becomes the leader not only in the hemp industry but in hemp technology, in hemp research. It is a worldwide phenomenon we are seeing.
We are seeing car manufacturers and we are seeing aeroplane manufacturers turning to hemp as a product to replace things like carbon fibres, to replace even things like aluminium, so it has got great potential.
I encourage the government to reconsider the clauses that further stymie the licensing of this industry and further send the wrong message about what this industry is. I appreciate that we are working hard and we have met with many people in the industry and we have learned a lot about the potential and the expansion of this industry and the optimism out there for something to grow.
I feel that this legislation, possibly inadvertently and possibly because it has been sitting on someone’s table for a number of years now—at least a year—has not been rethought in light of new information. So while I am very interested in the bill—I am interested in releasing the donkey milk and the camel milk—I would hope that my amendments will be considered. Thank you.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member of Northern Metropolitan Region
Second reading speech given 29/10/19