House debates

Thursday, 2 October 2014


Industrial Hemp

12:09 pm

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to speak today about industrial hemp. At the moment there is discussion in New South Wales and other parts of the country about legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes. I want to state from the beginning that the issue I am speaking about is entirely different. I do have a view on medicinal cannabis—for the record, if it is obviously having beneficial effects on terminally ill people then we should not be denying those people the right to that medication.

Industrial hemp is a crop that goes back thousands of years. It is suffers greatly because of its appearance. It is a hemp. It looks pretty well much the same as a cannabis plant, but it does not have the same qualities as, or affect humans in the same way as, the drug cannabis.

Hemp can be used in various ways. The seed can be harvested at the same time for oils, lubricants, biodiesel and health foods. The herb, which is the inner stalk, can be combined with other materials to create building materials. The bast, the outer stalk, can be used in composites to replace plastic and can be further treated to produce a fabric that is very durable and has lots of qualities. Finally, the leaves can be used as stockfeed.

At the moment it is illegal in New South Wales to grow industrial hemp. I understand the reasons why up until this point it has been so, but I think this issue needs another look. In my electorate in the Macquarie Valley there is a group of farmers investigating growing hemp. It uses less water per hectare than cotton and is a great rotation crop. It is deep-rooted and certainly frees up the soil for further crops. Because of the diversity of the product the potential for employment in regional areas in value adding what comes through is quite large. The problem is you need to grow enough in the first place to have the infrastructure to produce the end products. So we need to have not one or two farmers growing this crop; we need to have a few growing it on the first occasion so we have a critical mass. It has huge potential for job creation.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 12:13 to 12:25

In conclusion, the Macquarie 2100 group, which is a group of Landcare community organisations, is keen to progress the possibilities of growing hemp. I understand the difficulties in the past but I do not think that is a good enough reason not to pursue the possibilities. In a time when we need to help farmers become viable and also look at crops that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly, I believe that hemp certainly has the ability to fill that gap.

The week after next I will be going to Narromine and meeting with a group of farmers at a public forum who are going to have a discussion about the possibility of growing hemp, and I certainly am looking forward to that.