House debates

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Questions without Notice

Industrial Hemp

2:43 pm

Photo of Eric HutchinsonEric Hutchinson (Lyons, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health. As the minister is aware, I have been campaigning on behalf of Mr Phil Reader, a constituent in my electorate of Lyons, and others, for the legalisation of low-THC industrial hemp grown in Australia to be approved for human consumption. The benefits of such changes for Tasmanian farmers is considered significant. Imported hemp food products are currently available; however, the Australian grown equivalents are not. Can the minister please provide an update on the recent ministerial advisory council meeting deliberations and the decision making process required to see industrial hemp approved for human consumption in Australia?

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Lyons for his question. I well remember a meeting I had with the member for Lyons at Deloraine, when he was a candidate, with some very feisty vegetable growers. The Acting Prime Minister might remember that group as well. I am pleased to say that here in this House the energy and enthusiasm that I saw in the honourable member on that day is undiminished. At the recent meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation, members discussed a progress report on work being undertaken to address information gaps relating to concerns with adopting low-THC hemp as a food. As the member for Lyons would be aware, several studies are currently being undertaken, commissioned by the food forum, which seek to address the gaps in information. The studies centre around matters such as labelling, distribution, legal and treaty issues and, in particular, law enforcement matters. The law enforcement study will consider, for example, if you are pulled up for roadside testing, having consumed low-THC hemp in food, what that might mean. It is expected that all but one of the studies will be completed in time for the forum on food regulation meeting early next year. However, the law enforcement study is very complex and will take until later next year. In the absence of any major issues arising from the other studies, the forum and our regulatory agency, Food Standards Australia New ZealandFSANZ—can begin preparing the necessary changes to regulations so that, if the law enforcement study ticks all the appropriate boxes, the government can move swiftly to make the necessary regulatory changes.

I report that to you in detail because it is specific; it does involve a forum where the Commonwealth has one vote, every state in Australia has one vote and New Zealand has one vote, and decisions are made as a group. So it is not something that we can wave a magic wand and get happening. I applaud the enthusiasm of the member for Lyons in this area to provide a broader economic base for the agricultural constituents in his region and for the rural economy in Tasmania more generally. I will keep him up-to-date and again I commend him on his advocacy.