Senate debates

Tuesday, 21 March 2023


Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee; Reference

5:37 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a servant to the many amazing people who make up our One Queensland community, I move:

That the following matters be referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry and report by 1 September2023:

(a) the suitability for human consumption of in vitro protein, also known as lab-grown meat; and

(b) any other related matters.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand are processing an application right now to approve laboratory grown meat, known in Australia as in-vitro meat. It's called cultured meat, although I can see nothing cultured about it; it's slop. I'm horrified that bureaucrats, university academics and representatives of the business sector that will make bank out of this move could decide this once-in-a-century shift in agricultural production—conflicts of interest! Today One Nation is moving to refer in-vitro meat to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry. This reflects that FSANZ, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, reports to the minister for agriculture.

There are 450,000 people employed in the red meat industry in Australia, working in 63,000 businesses, who collectively are the lifeblood of the bush, the lifeblood of our country. This does not include the poultry industry, which is the subject of this first fake meat application. The poultry industry produces 1.3 million tonnes annually of high-quality, affordable meat—white meat. This contributes $7.9 billion to our economy, employing another 58,000 Australians. Seafood is another industry where in-vitro technology is being concocted. Seafood contributes $3.1 billion to the Australian economy, employing another 17,000 people. Australia exports beautiful natural produce which is in strong demand worldwide because of its high quality and reasonable price. The livelihoods of half a million Australians, and their families, rest on the outcome of this inquiry. The economic welfare of rural Australia rests on the outcome of this inquiry.

In-vitro meat has many issues that do need an inquiry. The cells that are cultured—yes, cultured—in an intensive near-urban-area industrial production facility are obtained using a painful muscle biopsy on a live animal. Every year, thousands of biopsies will be required to get the muscle cells needed to grow enough fake meat for projected production. At the same time, the Red Meat 2030 plan provides for a doubling of the price of red meat, pricing natural meat out of the reach of everyday Australians. This is an attempt to force the consumption of fake meat, like it or not.

In-vitro meat is a seismic shift in health, nutrition and culture. We don't know what issues will arise on the production line for these products, or what diseases, what fungi or what bacteria will creep into a facility like this. Most likely, meat will still need antibiotics and chemicals to control such contamination. With in-vitro meat, the cancer risk is high, as cells are replicated over and over, increasing the chances of a cancerous mutation being packaged for sale. Real animals have a self-healing system, though, that hunts down and kills cancerous and precancerous cells every minute of every day. In-vitro cells do not.

An alternative technique to in-vitro replication of muscle cells is to use a bioreactor to use cornstarch, plant skeletons, fungi and gelatine to engineer fake meat in an immortal cell line. What a name—an immortal cell line. The final product has all the nutrition contained in whatever nutrient supplements or additives can be added to this slop before it is formed into fake meat. It is slop with nutrients.

The environmental credentials of in-vitro meat are suspect. In-vitro meat still needs food, hormones and growth factors to grow. The equation is still 'energy in, stored energy out'. The faster the growth, the more profit is generated. And there will be a lot of profit. The billionaires who are lining up to bring in-vitro meat to the market are the same billionaires who are telling us how much damage cows are supposedly doing to the environment. Nobody is apparently concerned about the obvious conflict of interest.

Livestock production is not bad for the environment. Livestock farts, burps and belches are part of the biogenic carbon cycle, which works like this: plants absorb carbon dioxide and, through the process of photosynthesis, harness the energy of the sun to produce carbohydrates such as cellulose. Cattle are able to break down cellulose for food, releasing methane into the atmosphere. Methane is CH4. Note the 'C' for the carbon atom. Over a 12-year period, the methane is converted back into carbon dioxide through hydroxyl oxidation, a naturally occurring process in our atmosphere. The carbon released in that process is the same carbon that was in the air prior to being stored in a plant and then released when the plant consumed it. It's a cycle. For a constant herd size, the cattle industry is adding no additional methane to the atmosphere—none. Insect-based fake meats and lab-grown in-vitro fake meats are a solution to a problem that does not exist.

I know why this is happening. Fake meats offer a scalable production system in a controlled environment located right next to major markets, offering high profits on a predictable, stable cash flow, independent of weather conditions—natural weather conditions.

No wonder the billionaire predators that run the world are lining up for their slice of this new multibillion dollar market. All they have to do is get their mates, their underlings, in government and the bureaucracy to persecute farmers out of existence, and the market for fake meats will present itself. Look at Holland and New Zealand, and now look at America, Britain, Canada and, with this application, Australia. Why should we even let them call this rubbish 'meat'? Meat is a natural product brimming with goodness. Fake meat is a chemistry experiment that has more in common with pet food than human food. It is flavourless cells cultivated in a test tube, with additives for taste and additives for so-called 'nutrition'. It's fake. As Senator McDonald's inquiry into the definitions of meat and other animal products recommended, this stuff should not be labelled or sold as meat.

Clarkson's Fa rm, on Prime Video, has been, I'm sure, an eye-opener for city dwellers who have no clue how bad the persecution of farmers who grow our food has become. After watching the very entertaining Jeremy Clarkson teach himself farming, contending with the rules, the paperwork, the long hours, the lawyers, the activists, the heartbreak and the never-ending expense, one has to ask, 'Why would farmers do it?' That is the idea. If billionaire predators can get decent, hardworking, salt-of-the-earth farmers to walk off their land, walk away from the love of providing the public with nature's bounty, they can sell their Frankenstein food from their factories and make out like bandits while wrecking the health of everyday citizens.

I hear people say that fake meat will be dearer than natural meat, yet the billionaires promoting this putrid slop are not spending all this money just to make a product that is less tasty, less nutritious, less safe and dearer than the competition. Production volumes will soon ramp up, and quality and safety checks will be compromised to ensure the product is cheaper. The war on farmers will keep ramping up until room in the market has been conjured for their fake meat.

I understand that Labor, the Greens and teal Senator Pocock will oppose this motion, How can the Labor Party possibly still consider themselves the party of the people when over and over they sell out the people? The further left the teals, Greens and Labor Party march, the less relevant they become to the lives of everyday Australians and, worse, the more harm they do to the lives of everyday Australians.

I thank Senator McDonald for her comments and ask the Senate for its support for this motion. As long as we have amazing farmers bringing us natural, safe, nutritious protein, the world will never need dangerous food grown in a laboratory. One Nation is now the party of the people.

5:47 pm

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I appreciate getting the call now. Colleagues, I am hosting a road safety thing upstairs, so I appreciate that you have allowed me to get out of the way. I want to talk to this motion. What we do know is that the food sector is seeking rapid innovation and change in products and markets globally. We understand that. We understand that, by 2050, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, we will need to produce 60 per cent more food to feed an expected 9.7 billion people. Those are scary figures. Across the world, we know, enterprises are looking at opportunities to diversify protein supply to meet global demand. We know the Australian government is committed to ensuring we are well placed to meet this demand through the expansion of both traditional livestock and alternative protein industries.

Australia has some of the strongest food safety provisions in the world, and we want to keep it that way. The Australian government, with our state and territory counterparts, is committed to keeping food safe through legislation and regulation such as the Food Standards Code. The primary role of the Food Standards Code is to ensure safe food supplies so Australian and New Zealander consumers can be confident that the foods they choose to buy are safe to eat. God knows we all want that. We know Food Standards Australia New Zealand, which we refer to as FSANZ, is responsible for setting food standards in the Food Standards Code.

In February this year, FSANZ accepted its first application to permit cell-culture quail as a novel food. It is the only cell-culture meat application currently being assessed. FSANZ follows a rigorous process for assessing the safety of food. The assessment of cultured quail meat application will include chemical, nutritional, microbiological and dietary exposure assessments. It talks about detailed examination of the applicant's production process and review of the food science to ensure that, prior to going on sale, the product is safe to consume.

FSANZ's assessment will also involve two rounds of public consultation. In fact, I think it should be more—we should be talking a lot more—but they're going to do two at this stage. Details will be made available on the food standards website as consultation dates are set, and we hope that they are too. It is expected that this assessment will take approximately 12 months, so who knows how long that will take. If FSANZ approves the products, Australian and New Zealand food ministers will have 60 days to review the decision. The government views FSANZ as the appropriate body to deal with matters of food standards and safety and suggests that inquiries of this nature go to FSANZ directly.

I was sitting here earlier. I have to be honest. I'm always honest—what am I saying? I'm sharing it with you more. I thought, 'What the hell is cell culture meat or cultured quail meat?' I was on the committee that Senator McDonald drove that inquired into what is meat and into some of the nonsense we call meat. I'm on Senator McDonald's side on most of this stuff. But I thought, 'I've got to look this up.' With modern technology and the help of my good friend Senator Payman—I asked her, 'How do you google this?'—I found this. I want to share this. Senators, you'll love this. I have to share this with the Senate. This is what I found. Bear with me because I'm reading from an iPhone and I've forgotten my glasses. It says:

Several continuous tissue culture cell lines were established from methylcholanthrene-induced fibrosarcomas of Japanese quail.

It's as clear as day! You don't have to be Einstein to work that out! It's helpful that I could read that. Do I have a worried look on my face? I'll keep going. It says:

The lines consist either of fibroblastic elements, round refractile cells or polygonal cells.

Simple! It says:

They show transformed characteristics in agar colony formation and hexose uptake, and most are tumorigenic—

Of course they are. What else would they be? It says:

Their cloning efficiency in plastic dishes is not increased over that of normal quail embryo fibroblasts.

It goes without saying, as day follows night. It says:

The quail tumor cell lines do not produce endogenous avian oncoviruses—

thank goodness—

and fail to complement the Bryan high titer strain of Rous sarcoma virus—

whew, we dodged a bullet—

those tested lack the p27 protein of avian oncoviruses. Most of the cell lines are susceptible to subgroup A avian sarcoma viruses, but are relatively resistant to viruses of subgroups C, E and F as compared to normal quail embryo fibroblasts.

What do we have to worry about? It's in the hands of the experts, seriously, so I see no problem. I'd rely heavily on FSANZ. I mean, that's as clear as day! I understand Senator Roberts's concerns. We do have to have concerns, but if anyone can't understand what I've just read out then they shouldn't even be in this joint. Are you coming back truck driving with me? I thought it was just me.

But on a serious note, Senator Roberts, I understand your passion. I understand where you're going. Unfortunately—and I mean unfortunately for you, sorry, and fortunately for me and others who would be doing the inquiry; I don't know yet—we won't be supporting it. We do have faith in FSANZ. We have faith in our scientists, specialists and experts in this field. If we do do the inquiry, I'm looking forward to going through this with you, Senator Roberts. We can share some of this info while we're waiting to question people. I just found it as clear as day and not a problem!

Photo of Matt O'SullivanMatt O'Sullivan (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you very much, Senator Sterle. I think we're picking up what you're putting down. I'll go to Senator McDonald.

5:54 pm

Photo of Susan McDonaldSusan McDonald (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

I support Senator Roberts's motion for a committee inquiry because I think that transparency in the decisions we make around food is critical. It's important. Nobody should be afraid of transparency and inquiries into something like this. So I congratulate Senator Roberts for bringing this forward.

The food we eat is the most important thing that we think about each day. Some of us are better at thinking about it than others. I'm afraid that I fall off the wagon regularly with things that are certainly not approved on the healthy foods list. But, generally, we think about food a lot, particularly the food that we give our children and that we put on plates to share with our families and friends. We think about it in terms of cost and we think about it in terms of nutrition. When we plate up, we think about whether we going to be regarded as a superhero. I learnt a lot about that from running butcher shops. Those are the sorts of decisions that we as humans make as we decide what it is that we're going to feed our loved ones, our in-laws and ourselves.

This idea of having an inquiry into what cell based meat protein is, what in-vitro food is, makes complete sense. It makes complete sense to provide an environment where Australians and other people around the world can see a very open and transparent discussion. I believe there is nothing to be afraid of from either the meat industry or the cell based meat industry, because we should welcome consumers feeling confident in the food that they buy.

Last week I had the benefit of being at a summit with a very interesting panel of people. One of them researches the human desire for food and what the future of food will look like. There is a great deal of data that shows that consumers are looking for an understanding of what they eat, of trust in what they eat. Australian farmers are very high on the list of trusted professions. I believe at the moment it is doctors, nurses, farmers. There has been a huge investment into people understanding where their food is grown and how it's grown, and we should celebrate that. But, if there are new entrants to the market, they are actually seeking that same tick, that same quality understanding, that same desire from humans that this is something they should feel confident about.

This application that's in process for in-vitro protein has gone before FSANZ. I have to tell you that I am not satisfied that they are a transparent organisation, because, in 2016, they allowed an application from a major food manufacturer to go through to change the definition of meat. They allowed it to become so broad that you can now have processed vegetables, processed plant protein, being called meat. Put a picture of the animal on the front and talk about meat, and that's branded on the product. I'm not afraid of that, but it's not right. We spend so much time demanding that consumers have truth in labelling, that they can trust the claims that are made, and yet we allowed a process to go through that, frankly, allowed consumers to be misled. The idea of this referral that Senator Roberts is making is about transparency and about confidence, and I would hope that one element of that will be the definition of what this is.

One of the people I met during the process of the inquiry was Professor Paul Wood AO. Just last week, Professor Wood addressed the Rural Press Club in Queensland. He talked about exactly this topic—the production of cell based meats. This is an important topic not just because of consumer sentiment and not just because of nutrition. We have recently seen a whole lot of startups that have taken taxpayers' dollars and the hard-earned dollars of mum-and-dad investors, and, very sadly, those startups have not been able to support the claims they have made, and millions of dollars have been wasted.

The problem is not that the project is unworthy of investigation; it's that their claims have been too great—too outlandish. It reminds me of when you get a rush on a market: 'This is so exciting! We're going to pour money into these things!' You then run the very real risk of cell based claims doing what has already been done with plant based claims and of people losing a lot of money.

These claims being made about the production systems do bear scrutiny. Will they stand up to the scrutiny of a senate inquiry? If they have nothing to be frightened of, then they should welcome this.

This government has come in based on them saying: 'We believe in transparency. We believe in a new kind of government.' Well, this is just one more example of how hypocritical that is, because, the moment we want to shine some light on a very important topic, it's: 'No; we're going to shut that down. We're going to shut down any transparency of examination.'

There is no risk, I believe, that these new plant based proteins or cell based technologies are going to drive out production by traditional farming methods. They just won't. As much as some people—like my good friends in the Greens, and like some industry people—would like to have us believe it is, this is not about a competition between red meat, or farming organisations, and these new products. Please do not think that is the point of what I'm trying to say tonight.

I'm trying to say that there is a new technology coming to town which, if it were successful, could potentially feed poorer parts of the world—parts of Africa and South America—by providing a different form of protein. But billions of dollars are being poured into this new technology and into an estimated 150 cultivated-meat startups around the world, because they're betting that investor money that they'll be able to produce lab-grown protein alternatives at a commercially viable scale, while also attracting customers. Now, that is a noble and fair pursuit of commerce. That is the way the world works: new products come to market; they're invested in; and then consumers make a decision about whether or not that is going to go ahead. But, given some of the technological issues, that has a very real risk of actually sending a lot of these investors and companies to the wall, because the science is very difficult. It is very challenging.

Some cell-based-meat startups have publicly announced that they have commissioned fermentation vessels of up to 250,000 litres in size. The biggest that has ever been done to date in cell culture has been about 10,000 to 20,000 litres. So this is the first example of a commercial claim of a company that is attracting investor dollars but that is not supported by any technology or any manufacturing process in the world to date. I think that it is only fair that we start allowing people to have a transparent discussion of what these technologies are and whether or not they are a whole lot of hype.

I've got no doubt the technology works. We've seen it in Japan. They can produce pieces of protein that look like meat grown from an animal. I have no problem with that.

What I do have a problem with is these products being sold as if they are an investment certainty. If that is not worthy of a Senate inquiry—of the full public examination that we have the benefit of having in this country—then I don't know what is. I want to know what the government is frightened of and what the Greens are frightened of. When did they become frightened of transparency and good public decision-making? This is the point of the Senate! This is the reason why our forefathers designed an upper house: to allow us to have an in-depth look at legislation about government investment and at issues that keep Australians awake at night. This is a perfect example of a new technology, where an application is going to FSANZ and there will be absolutely no scrutiny by Australians. They deserve to know if this is a good idea. Does it work scientifically? Are there manufacturing schemes that allow this? And, most importantly of all, should they risk their hard-earned dollars by going into this?

These fermenters run at 37 degrees, which requires a lot of energy and generates a lot of heat. The room needs to be cooled down, which requires more energy. These facilities are going to need a lot of electricity and a lot of inputs; they will not have a low environmental footprint. This is a process where it isn't easy to grow cells. Extraneous agents such as bacteria or fungi can quickly outgrow and destroy the culture if they're allowed into the sterile environment. I recommend that, if you have the time, you read Adjunct Professor Paul Wood's address that he gave to the Rural Press Club. It has been widely reported on Beef Central; it was only last week, on 17 March.

This deserves an inquiry. If this new technology is so good, then the publicity and transparency should be welcome. But, if it is not, why don't Australians get to see that? Why can't we have a discussion about new food products? As I said, as I stated at the very beginning, what we put into our bodies is the most important trend happening in the world at the moment. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in a First World country, get to decide about whether we have organic food or food that has been grown free range, or whether our food has been grown in an environment that has been ticked off by accredited agencies. But when we move into new products and new lines we should allow consumers to have the same confidence that they expect from a farmed product. That's all I'm saying.

They should be given an appropriate definition. We should understand this: are we going to use the same food definitions that we use for meat or for vegetables? This is a far bigger and more serious issue, and I think it's being fobbed off. Senator Sterle, who I have the utmost admiration for, is a man who is very genuine and who fights hard for his part of regional Western Australia. He calls a spade a spade. I enjoy that, but he has been sent in by the government to fob off transparency in the examination of a new technology. Instead, it will be sent off to FSANZ, where it will happen behind closed doors. We should be ashamed of that, because this is our job. Our job is to come to the Senate and examine these serious issues.

So good on you, Senator Roberts, for coming up with this motion to make sure that it's examined properly. I call out the government, who continue to say that they believe in transparency and open government—I call that out for the lie that it is. When they vote against this tonight, be clear: they'll be voting against investors having transparency, consumers having transparency and the broader food industry having transparency. I think it's shocking, and they should be ashamed.

6:09 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Senators might not be aware, but this was referenced in Senator McDonald's contribution tonight. The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee just produced a big, thick report into the definitions of meat and animal products. It looked at this issue repeatedly—repeatedly. It came up across a number of experts, and the evidence, as I passed on to Senator Roberts today, was that the commercial application of this technology, if it is successful, is decades away. We know there are some products that are grown in vitro, but their commerciality is decades away. So I'm not exactly sure what we would be examining.

I'm a little bit scarred from this Senate inquiry because, contrary to what Senator McDonald said tonight, it was a not-so-thinly-veiled attack on the plant protein industry, which I believe suffered damage because of this Senate inquiry. It was pointed out to us in evidence—and I am glad Senator McDonald has accepted it, because I didn't hear her acknowledge this in previous contributions around this inquiry—that there is plenty of growth potential for the plant based food industry and alternative meats and the traditional industry. Both, according to CSIRO, ABARES and a number of experts, have massive growth trajectories. It is not an and/or thing. They both have big growth trajectories.

Plant based foods, be they any kind of alternative protein, are a massive opportunity for markets. When I go back and have a look at this inquiry and the submissions, they were evenly matched. AUSVEG, a massive industry body, gave the Senate evidence that they were happy to see some changes to some labelling standards but didn't appreciate the not-so-thinly-veiled attack on their industry and the growth potential. That's what this is, as we listen to Senator Roberts's contribution here tonight. This is just another way to raise the issue. I don't know if Senator Roberts might be up for election next time around and wants to get some Senate action out in country areas and wants to call in some farmers to give evidence. I can tell those farmers now that this inquiry is a road to nowhere. There is no evidence before us to examine. If there were, there are other good ways that we as senators all understand to get that information, starting with the estimates process, questions on notice and using FOIs and OPDs. Senator Roberts is having a go at FSANZ for its lack of transparency. He can start putting in some FOIs and OPDs and building that information base and then he can come back to the Greens if he wants our support, if he believes there is something substantial to see here.

We've got a number of inquiries before the rural and regional affairs committee. I believe that this inquiry that we just did well and truly dealt with the issue. If we want to help farmers across the board, be they vegetable farmers growing chickpeas for vegetable burgers or farmers growing peas for alternative proteins in products like Beyond Meat burgers, which are obviously very popular and very successful, then the most important thing we can do for all of them right now is take meaningful climate action. There is no bigger threat to the farming community in this country than climate change. The costs have been estimated by CSIRO at $29,200 per annum per farm in this country lost from climate impacts.

We know the whole agricultural supply chain gets impacted by extreme weather events. We've seen copious evidence in recent years around the impacts floods have had on supply chains and farmers' livelihoods. Sadly, we've seen evidence over decades now about the impacts that extreme droughts are having on farming communities right around the country, including on the mental health of farming families. There are all sorts of biosecurity issues that our committee is also dealing with that are directly related to our changing climate.

If we actually want to do something substantive for farmers, why don't we look at fracking in prime agricultural farmland? I think it might have been Senator Canavan that famously said a few years ago that the Nats don't represent farmers anymore; they represent mining communities. Well, farming communities need to be represented in here on issues like fracking. Non-traditional gas is a major threat to the water in these areas, as it is to agricultural land and to access to agricultural land. As we're talking in the Senate today, there are hundreds of farmers out protesting in New South Wales, trying to stop companies like Santos and Origin from fracking their land with thousands of wells, poisoning land and water. Why aren't we discussing that? Why aren't we standing up for farming communities in this country? Why aren't we taking meaningful climate action?

We saw the IPCC synthesis report last night, the sixth and final report. We're not going to get another report for a decade, not until 2030. It was dire. It warned that we need to act now. Time is up. We need to act now. It said that action means cutting emissions in a deep, meaningful and significant way, bringing forward the rapid transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy and other energy sources, and fast-tracking the development of renewable energy projects. It also said no more fossil fuel projects, including leaving in the ground any existing fossil fuels that have already been discovered. It couldn't have been more clear. That is what the science tells us, but Senator Roberts doesn't listen to the science. He honestly doesn't give a fig about science, and he never has. He can laugh all he likes. The joke's on you, Senator Roberts—through you, Madam Acting Deputy President. These are the world's most eminent climate scientists, who have been working on this for decades. For decades, they've been plugging away, looking at the data—

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Whish-Wilson, resume your seat. Senator Roberts, do you have a point of order?

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The President herself made an announcement that we are not to impugn other senators in statements we make in this chamber.

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Whish-Wilson, do you have a response to that?

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I didn't impugn Senator Roberts at all.

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Whish-Wilson, I think your intention is to clarify that you did not seek to impugn Senator Roberts. I ask that you continue in the spirit of respectful conversation in the chamber.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Let me clarify my comments. Anybody who denies climate science, like Senator Roberts does, doesn't respect the science. I've seen him come into Senate estimates and embarrass public servants—

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senators Whish-Wilson and Roberts, please resume your seats. Senator Whish-Wilson, I did just give you the benefit of allowing you to continue with the call on the basis that you would effectively move through these comments and continue your remarks, perhaps going back to the topic at hand. If you could do that, I think that would be in the interest of the Senate.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't think it's in the interest of the Senate, Acting Deputy President, but I'll do it for you, to assist you as the chair. This is important, because it goes to Senator Roberts's disregard for the science and empirical evidence. The same will apply to this—

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Whish-Wilson, resume your seat. Senator Roberts, do you have a point of order?

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes I do. He's continuing to impugn me. He's telling lies about me.

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Roberts, resume your seat. Senator Whish-Wilson, I'm going to return the call to you, but, on a couple of occasions, I've tried to draw you away from your current line and back to the broader topic of the reference. I'd ask that you do that in your comments.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Acting Deputy President. That's exactly what I was doing. I was pointing out that someone who disrespects science is hardly going to use the Senate process effectively and efficiently. This is very important to my contribution. You can also—

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Whish-Wilson, resume your seat. Senator Roberts, I assume you have the same point of order, which I've made a couple of rulings on.

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I do because I respect the science.

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you. I've made a ruling, Senator Whish-Wilson, so I ask that you abide by my ruling. Please move away from this particular line in relation to Senator Roberts and continue your comments on the broader reference. Please don't dispute my decision in your comments.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I won't dispute it, Acting Deputy President, but I'll ask you to go away and review it because you can't influence my substantive debate when it is actually in line—

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Whish-Wilson, I'm wondering if anybody else would like the call at this point. Senator Davey is seeking the call.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Are you taking the call off me?

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No. Senator Davey, please resume your seat for a moment. Senator Whish-Wilson, I've asked you four or five times to abide by a ruling in relation to Senator Roberts's points of order. I'm not making a decision either way about the topic, but I'm asking you to please continue for the convenience of the Senate. Go back to the topic of the reference and avoid what could unconventionally be called a game of whack-a-mole right now. For the convenience of the Senate, could you just continue your remarks.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I would point out that Senator Roberts is deliberately playing that game so that I don't get to finish my speech.

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You still have the call, and I note that Senator Davey is waiting.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

As a point of order, though, Acting Deputy President, I ask that you go away and review your ruling in relation to this. I don't believe I have been disrespectful. I've been very clear about why I've framed my comments, but I will move on.

If we respect the science on climate change, and I hope senators do, we listen to the IPCC scientists. Many of them are very good Australian scientists; two of them are actually very close friends of mine. Hobart, as Senator Duniam knows, is full of some of these scientists who work for the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and others. They've dedicated their lives to studying climate change and its impacts, its costs and its future impacts on this country, including on agriculture and on the farming community. When we talk about food security, there's nothing more important than acting on climate change. My suggestion to Senator Roberts is that perhaps he initiate another Senate inquiry that actually looks at, for example, the impact of fracking on farming communities and the impact of poisoning the land and the water. If he cares about farmers, that would be a constructive alternative for him. I would certainly talk to my colleagues about supporting that reference if he were to bring that to the rural and regional affairs committee.

I'll finish my contribution by saying that I know the government is not supporting this, and Senator Sterle has offered some constructive ways forward. I suggest to Senator Roberts that he pursue this directly with the department using the toolkit that he has as a Senator to get the information that he needs. Perhaps we will keep talking, and, over time, if there's something substantial, I will talk to my colleagues about potentially supporting an inquiry. I bet my bottom dollar that Senator Roberts hasn't read this report from the rural and regional affairs committee that looks at synthetic meats and how they're grown, and presents the issues that were raised and discussed around this. I believe an inquiry would be a waste of the Senate's time and resources at this point, as there are other ways Senator Roberts can get information on this topic.

6:23 pm

Photo of Perin DaveyPerin Davey (NSW, National Party, Shadow Minister for Water) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Roberts for bringing this motion to the Senate. I note what Senator Whish-Wilson has just said. I want to make the point that, regardless of what he feels about anyone's personal positioning on listening to the science, the whole point of a Senate committee inquiry is to operate as a committee. To say that one person can hijack or disrespect a committee process actually disrespects the committee process of this place. I think it is highly unfair to not support a committee referral based on your personal opinion of one person's viewpoint.

I support this referral not because I am opposed to cultured meat, lab-grown meat or cell based meat, as it can variously be referred to, but because I do believe we need to investigate it further. I have a very interesting journal article here from the Quest International Journal of Medical and Health Sciences. The journal article is a very good outline. The article's titled 'A review on lab-grown meat: advantages and disadvantages'. It covers off on both components. One of its conclusions is:

Large-scale research, clinical trials need to be done to obtain more data to support cultured meat as a climatically sustainable alternative. Based on currently available information, it will be too early to comment on the viability, environmental impact, carbon footprint, and necessary rethink for unrestrained culture meat production and consumption.

This was written and published in 2021, so it's not an old report. It identifies—and I found this very interesting—that cultured meat was first developed in the 1930s. While our modern technology has improved, the processes, the concept, the idea and the ability to produce cultured meat, cell based meat or lab based meat was developed in the 1930s. As the article says:

Winston Churchill even predicted, 'Fifty years hence we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.'

I find that absolutely fascinating. It goes to the basis and the reasoning for lab-grown meat.

There are lots of different opinions about why we should be converting to lab-grown meat or not. I do note and agree with Senator McDonald's comments that this is not an either/or. I do not believe that investigating lab-grown meat will suddenly see the demise of our farming and livestock industries. I am certainly not of the opinion that lab-grown meat is any more humane, kinder, gentler or better and should replace farming, because our farmers and livestock producers, on the whole, are some of the best in the world. They treat their animals humanely while they are in the production line.

One of the original concepts behind producing lab-grown meat is that we know the world's population is growing almost exponentially. The world now produces more than three times the quantity of meat it did 50 years ago as developing countries grow in both population and prosperity. Global meat consumption increased by 58 per cent over the 20 years to 2018 to reach 360 million tonnes annually. We know that, as some of our developing nations become more prosperous, their meat consumption is going up. We also know protein consumption is a vital component of the human diet. A lot of the original concepts of lab-grown meat were looking at ways that we could produce an ethical, affordable, sustainable protein to particularly help feed our Third World nations.

Where we haven't got to yet on the whole concept of lab based meat production is cost-effectiveness. At the moment, it is much more expensive to produce lab-grown meat than traditional meat. Indeed, the first lab-made hamburger, created in 2012, cost about US$325,000 to produce. I'm glad I wasn't at that dinner party and paying for it! More recently, Dutch startup Mosa Meat estimated that the price of production is about $80 a kilo. If you want marble score five-plus wagyu, you can accept paying that price, but, if you're just going for a hamburger patty at 80 bucks a kilo, I don't think so. So my sheep producers aren't quaking in their seats just yet.

However, that's not to say there that won't be a role for lab produced meat in future. That is why I support having this Senate inquiry, having this investigation and looking at all aspects. I do tend to agree with Senator McDonald: yes, there's an application before FSANZ at the moment, and, yes, FSANZ have a role to play in assessing the safety of foods that are allowed to be sold in Australia. By and large, they do a pretty good job, but this is also the same organisation that now says it is healthier to drink Diet Coke than orange juice. I sometimes question, when they are purely looking at things through a fixed lens and assessing things according to a fixed formula or algorithm, whether they are actually looking at the whole picture.

I have no problem—in fact, I completely agree—that the Senate has a good role to play in looking at this issue and evaluating it and in hearing from scientists, because we do all respect the science, and some of the technicians. There are a lot of claims about the environmental benefits of cultured meat or lab-grown meat and the potential reductions in methane production from meat grown in a lab. But, on the flipside, lab produced meat is highly energy intensive. It requires more power and therefore produces more CO2. So, while it might be reducing methane production, it could be increasing CO2 production. CO2 has a longer lifespan than methane. So is it truly more environmentally sustainable, when we're talking about greenhouse gas emissions?

I do think the conversation is a little bit akin to the use of gene technology in our food production systems. Once upon a time, there were huge concerns about the role of genetically modified organisms in our farming production systems. But we've also learnt over time that, with tried and tested methods—thoroughly tested—we can get good outcomes. There are ways—and there are proposals—to use gene editing or gene modification to improve nutritional benefits of certain foods. In the case of things like genetically modified cotton, we have significantly reduced our chemical usage, which is good for the environment.

I think thoroughly investigating this is better than just saying yes or no so that we understand it, understand what benefits it could bring and understand the risks that are involved. Let's not forget that lab-grown meat is not a vegetarian alternative and not a vegan alternative, because it is meat. It is produced from taking a biopsy from an animal—taking muscle cells from an animal and putting them in a bioreactor, more often than not in foetal bovine fluid, to produce the meat. Unlike 'plant based meat'—and I use quotation marks because I would rather call it plant based protein—this is a cultured meat. It actually is a meat. But it's not grown in paddocks. It's not fed grain. It's not grazing on pastures. It's a cell that's put into a Petri dish in a lab, into a bioreactor, and allowed to multiply. Conceptually, it sounds just a little bit too sci-fi for my liking. However, I do think that there may be a role for it. But I think that we should be able to investigate it.

I must say, I am actually very surprised that the government and the Greens are not supporting this referral, because they like to come here and tell us to listen to the science. Well, that's what we want to do. They like to come in here and tell us that they are the parties for openness and transparency. Well, that's what this referral will do. It will allow us to have a public investigation into the pros and cons of lab based meat, and to properly assess not only what impact it would have on diets or on consumers, but also what impact it would have on competing industries. Will it impact our meat and livestock industry, or will it have no impact? I don't have a predetermined idea. That's why this referral needs to go ahead, because there are a lot of open-minded people like me out there who would just like to learn more. That's exactly what this referral is about. And that's why I commend this referral to the chamber. I would encourage the Greens and the government to change their positions and support this referral, in the interests of listening to the science and having an open and transparent process.

6:37 pm

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support this referral and congratulate Senator Roberts on bringing it forward. It is very timely to have an investigation of this sort, for the reasons that other senators have outlined.

Before I, myself, elaborate on some of those reasons, I would like to make a couple of general comments about the need for inquiries like this. Obviously, we have in front of us a question of scientific development—of, in this case, lab-grown meat. It's something completely new, and somewhat terrifying, I think, for some, as to the possibility of risks and issues that might occur in laboratories.

I want to make the point that there must be much greater oversight of the endeavours of our scientific community, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This pandemic we've just experienced was the worst in 100 years. It may have been the first pandemic caused by science—caused by scientists—if it did come from a laboratory. We do not know exactly where it came from, but I think the evidence is building and growing that, more than likely, it did come from experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Certainly that seems to be the conclusion of the intelligence agencies and the department of energy in the United States, and the circumstantial evidence is quite significant.

Be that—all that evidence—as it may, I have found, in my work as a senator, trying to expose some of these issues through the Australian Senate, a complete lack of willingness to engage, from the scientific community; a complete lack of introspection about what their role may be; and, in fact, worse: an explicit, co-ordinated attempt to denigrate anyone who may suggest that somehow scientists, like the rest of us, can make mistakes or sometimes be conflicted and do the wrong thing.

That's because what is worse about the potential involvement of the Wuhan Institute of Virology is that scientists in Western, free countries were definitely involved with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and, potentially, involved with the experimentations on coronavirus that may have, potentially, led to this tragic outbreak that has killed six million people around the world and counting. In the United States, we know that United States government funding went through to the Wuhan Institute of Virology through the EcoHealth Alliance, based in New York. This stuff seemed to be illegal at the time, but Dr Anthony Fauci and the EHA seemed to find a way to get that funding through without scrutiny by their government. Here in Australia there were behaviours that perhaps weren't as consequential, but still the CSIRO were involved in training and working with Wuhan Institute of Virology scientists, including on coronaviruses. Perhaps these were not the experiments that led to this outbreak, but they definitely worked with them on coronaviruses. All of this has been exposed through the great reporting of Sharri Markson and stuff that I followed up here in the Senate.

Despite all this evidence, to this day the Australian government, the CSIRO and the department of industry are refusing to reveal of what gain-of-function research they conducted with taxpayers' money over the past 10 years. I have asked for information about that and through those questions it has been revealed that we have funded 17 gain-of-function experiments over the past decade. But, apart from some very broad generic descriptions, we have no information about what papers came from that and what the findings of that research were. They will not release any of this because of the trumped-up excuse that, somehow, releasing this information, which is taxpayer funded, would cause the safety and security of scientists to be put at risk—that they would potentially be at risk of death threats and what have you. This is ridiculous. These gain-of-function experiments may have led to the deaths of six million people around the world and yet we cannot get basic information about them through the Australian parliament, even given that they were funded by the federal government.

That isn't exactly what's in front of us, but there's a similar situation here: the scientific community seems resistant to any outside non-scientific examination of what the hell is going on in these laboratories and what the risks are to the rest of us. There were certainly risks at the Wuhan Institute of Virology which impacted on the rest of us and, because of that, we deserve to have appropriate scrutiny of what occurs in laboratories here in Australia and, indeed, around the world if we are to use the products that come out of those laboratories—if they were to be approved here.

The second general point that I'd like to make is that it's quite depressing to see the state of the once proud Australian Senate right now. There's a cabal over there on that side of the chamber that is coordinating to stop and prevent legitimate Senate inquiries from occurring—to stop the proper scrutiny of government and decision-making. Effectively, we have a Greens-Labor alliance in this chamber. They are one; they vote together almost all the time. This is a very sensible inquiry being brought forward by Senator Roberts; not everyone has to agree with the concerns he has raised, but it's clearly in the wheelhouse of what we would do in a typical Senate inquiry. I, as the chair of the committee—the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee—would be happy to conduct an inquiry into this matter. I thank Senator Roberts, who checked with me before moving this motion.

It's just very unfortunate that we have this protection racket over there on the other side, working to stop the Senate from doing its proper business. They're literally only allowing inquiries to occur into things that aren't going to cause any embarrassment. This one itself is not really into anything to do with the functioning and workings of government—only in a tangential way. As I said earlier, it's really about science and the developments here that will of course one day find their way to a regulator's desk. But there's nothing that would really necessarily embarrass the Albanese government if Senator Roberts exposed anything through it. But we still see this resistance to it and the combination here which doesn't allow legitimate inquiries. I think it's very, very sad to see the Senate reduced to being, effectively a rubber stamp for the government; it's not what we're here to do. The conduct of Labor and Greens senators in combining with the executive in this way to prevent the normal functioning and scrutiny that should occur in this chamber diminishes us all.

There is a need for this in this particular area because, just like in the example I used around coronavirus, there seems to be a level of zeal from those pushing alternative proteins—in this case lab-grown meat—that really concerns me. It's one thing to be proud and forward-thinking about innovations and excited about technological changes that can make people's lives better, but some of these scientists seem to think that the experiments that happen here or the technology that comes out of a laboratory—in this case with lab-grown meat—will somehow save the world. That's the mission some of these scientists seem to be on—somehow these alternative protein sources will stop the world from instantaneously combusting at some point in the next few decades.

My concern is that, when you have such a Messianic ideology and approach to life, you're more likely to put aside any potential risks or countervailing issues that arise in your pursuit of that Messianic goal. Because these scientists think that their work and developments are potentially the key to saving humanity, they are less likely to worry if these products cause greater disease and carcinogenic issues or spread zoonotic disease. Any issues like that that might crop up in the development of these technologies would seem small against the potential benefit of saving humanity as a whole. You see across a lot of different human endeavours and behaviours the Messianic approach loses all perspective of the fact that there are multiple factors to take into account when evaluating something as tectonically changing as growing our food in a laboratory rather than organically.

This is another justification above and beyond the fact that we should be scrutinising technological and scientific developments. In this case there should be greater scrutiny of it because of that Messianic approach I sometimes see in the scientific community.

It goes beyond just the lab grown issue. I think this inquiry is needed but not just for the lab grown meat issue. I note that the terms of reference do allow for inquiry into any other related matters. I spoke to Senator Roberts about looking at other alternative protein sources as well if we get this inquiry up. Obviously a plethora of plant based proteins have come onto the market, and there have been a lot of labelling issues around those. I know a separate inquiry with Senator McDonald did fantastic work on that when we were in government. We allowed those sorts of inquiries when we were in government. It was not an inquiry that the executive necessarily welcomed, but we allowed the Senate to do its work and look into the labelling of meat products. Senator McDonald did an excellent job on that.

There are those issues, but there are also health issues. These plant based proteins include enormous amounts of sodium. Salt is put into these products to improve their taste. That quite possibly has deleterious health impacts. I note too that, despite all the hype around plant based proteins, they haven't exactly been to the taste of consumers. The much-hyped company Beyond Meat has suffered massive reductions in the consumption of its products and has had huge losses of hundreds of millions of dollars a year—its stock is way down. Indeed, when explaining these losses the CEO of Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown, commented that the plant based meat industry's biggest obstacles are taste, awareness of the health benefits and price. Apart from that, it's great. It doesn't taste very good, it's very expensive and we're not really sure about the health benefits, but, apart from that, it's fantastic. Why aren't people buying it? It's a complete mystery!

On top of that we've also seen this very strange promotion of the need to eat bugs. I don't know if people have been watching this. I thought it was a joke when it first came up.

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Not moreton bay bugs.

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No, not those bugs, Senator Scarr—not moreton bay or balmain bugs. They're pretty tasty. I thought it was a joke. In Beef Week 2021 I was up in Rocky enjoying lots of beef, as you do—too much beef in Beef Week. CSIRO chose that week to put out a report on the exciting opportunities for Australians to eat more bugs. As I said, I thought was a bit of a joke back then in early 2021, but I see now that all sorts of people, including Nicole Kidman and others, are all promoting that we need to switch to eating bugs. If we get this inquiry up, we should definitely look at the bugs and look at whether this is something to do. As for me, to each their own; if you want to eat bugs, go for your life. But, as I said, I do think we should look at these health issues properly and scrutinise them.

A recent report from the food and agriculture organization of the United Nations found a number of particular health issues that could arise from using insects. In particular, the pathogenic microbes of insects are considered potential vectors for viruses. Keep in mind that, when you process an animal, one of the first things you do in a meatworks is take out their gut and intestines, because that's where a lot of the microbes and potential bad things that can do harm to humans could be. You take all that out. You can't do that with insects, obviously; they're too small to take out all of that intestinal matter, and that's potentially where this bad stuff is. So, while other cultures have used bugs at different times, there's a lot of risk here in translating that into mass production. It should be examined and investigated, and this inquiry could potentially do that.

I could go on about these issues for a long time, and I think it would have been quite useful for not only the Senate but the entire Australian community for other Senators and me to have the time in a Senate inquiry to ask these legitimate questions and expose some of the issues that have been raised, but it would appear that this Greens-Labor cabal over there will ensure that there is not proper scrutiny in this place on these issues. I don't exactly see why; as I said, I'm not asking that other senators necessarily agree with all the concerns that I, Senator Roberts or others have put on the table, but they are definitely legitimate matters for investigation in an inquiry. It's very sad that the Senate tonight will most likely not do its job to make those appropriate investigations and inquiries. Instead, we will be mere puppets of others, who are presumably making these decisions on carpet that is not red in other parts of this building.

6:51 pm

Photo of Ross CadellRoss Cadell (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I was going to take a lot more time to give a speech, but I think I can beat my colleague Senator Canavan's 'It's good other than its price, taste and health benefits.' I'm going to focus on something else: what Senator Roberts said earlier about the potential corporatisation of our food supply. There are many things this is called. It's called slaughter-free meat, clean meat, cultured meat and in vitro meat. There are many things it is called, and one thing we know it is not is meat. That happens with a lot of foods that are so unpopular that they piggyback on the name recognition and benefits of others, it would seem: almond milk, cashew milk, soy milk, rice milk—nut juice, basically, is what that is, and they are out there selling that as other foods. We have to get beyond that.

My fear, away from the health constraints, apart from the impact on an industry that is vibrant and good—and I note that Senator Canavan, of North Queensland, will probably hit me when I say Rockhampton is the second beef capital of Australia behind Casino, in northern New South Wales!—is what happens if these companies if these labs hold IP. Do they put in patents? Do they hold the world to ransom because their IP works for protein in the future? We heard about price complaints and the price drama with some of these things. As we allow governments to ramp up the controls on farming, on methane—we've heard these things come in—they put more constraints on how a farmer can do their work. They ramp up the price of meat to make this artificial protein more competitive.

We talk about 'big pharma'. Will we find 'big agriculture'—'big lab food'? If I come across something like fixing taste and I hold that, do I then hold the world to ransom because I hold that IP? I'm pretty sure no-one holds IP to a cow, a chicken, a lamb or any of these things. I'm pretty sure that applies to bugs too, but I don't want to eat those. So what happens if that happens? Who's looking at that? Forget about safety and all these other things; what about control of the world's protein supply if this goes wrong?

Knowledge is a good thing. Senator Roberts is not asking to stop anything. We've heard from Senator Roberts and we've heard my colleagues in the Nationals say: 'Let's just ask some questions. Let's have a look. It may be good.' We talk about all the health things and about some concerns in other spaces, but I notice that there's no longitudinal study about the health effects of protein meat—none in the world. There's a great longitudinal study on what real meat does to you. From the time of Fred Flintstone, the brontosaurus burger and the beginning of mankind, we've known what meat does to you. It makes you stronger, it feeds you and it gives you protein. That is a longitudinal study. We are the end result—me probably a bit more so than others!—of eating meat and what happens from that.

These are the things we could look at. There can never be too much knowledge when we're trying to make an informed decision. This is all we're asking for. All we're looking to do is shine a light on a somewhat murky field, to look at these things of health, of price, of taste and of the commercialisation of the world's food supply. Senator Roberts was right when he said the billionaires are behind pricing out naturally occurring foods and those sorts of things, because they can't make a buck out of big agricultural holdings. There are too many small things and too many small countries, and they can't make that money and get that around, where they're keeping their buffalo and their other meat sources.

It is with sadness that we think we know what will happen. We'll probably vote tomorrow morning, and this will not get up. It is a shame that we can't explore all of these things. Who knows what we'd uncover? The right expert at the right time with the right question may just shine a light or, even better, may have some answers. They may not. From what we learn, we may be able to move legislation that makes Australian people safer. Woe betide us trying to make the Australian people safer because we learn something! I'm probably the last speaker tonight, and we are at a sad point on something that goes to the cornerstone of Australian agriculture, to every mum and dad who are feeding their kids some sort of food and to where we will be in the future. There is great opportunity in artificial foods and in artificial proteins. It may be a future where we can feed people, but it is not meat. It is not milk, when we look at these other things. If we know more, that can be a pathway through to finding more opportunities and separating them from the dangers. It is sad that this reference will not get up.

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion moved by Senator Roberts to refer a matter to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee be agreed to. I note that it's after 6.30 pm. As a division is required, the matter will be adjourned until the next day of sitting. The debate is adjourned.