08 Mar 2023, 12:08
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne
Rachel PAYNE (South-Eastern Metropolitan):
My question is for the Minister for Agriculture Ms Tierney and relates to the hemp industry. Minister, other states have recognised the future of hemp, in particular Western Australia, where the government has provided grants to local companies to drive the growth of the hemp industry. Their grant scheme is focused on generating improvements in agricultural productivity and competitiveness required for long-term profitability, sustainability and economic growth of the Western Australian industrial hemp industry. Funded projects include seed and crop trials, establishing a hemp-processing facility and building carbon-neutral homes from hemp biomass. My question for the minister is: will she assist the Victorian hemp industry by implementing a grant scheme?
Gayle TIERNEY (Western Victoria – Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education, Minister for Agriculture):
I thank the member for her question. In terms of the government’s support for the hemp industry, I think that there are a number of things that I can point to. Last year the agriculture legislation act amended legislation to support the cultivation of hemp crops and subsequent industrial use. There were also amendments to standardise the maximum allowable levels of THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis, to be consistent with other states and territories.
The amendments also widen the eligibility criteria for licence applications, strengthen the fit and proper person test for applicants and make other changes to improve administration and enforcement of the act.
Agriculture Victoria has co-invested with AgriFutures and industry in the national industrial hemp variety trial and hosts the Victorian trial in Hamilton, as you probably are well aware. The results from the trial are made available to growers to help guide decisions about which varieties to plant for Victorian conditions. In the current growing season there are six authority holders growing commercial crops, covering an area of 156 hectares. Agriculture Victoria’s activity in industrial hemp R and D is through the industrial hemp variety trials that I have mentioned. The IHVT is a three-year national project with trials in every state and the Northern Territory. AgVic research hosts the Victorian IHVT at, as I said, Hamilton, and AgVic co-invests with AgriFutures to fund the trial.
So there are a lot of things that have been happening in terms of legislation. There are a lot of things that are happening in terms of research and development, and we look forward to ongoing discussions with the industry in terms of the types of support that we might be able to provide.
I thank Minister Tierney for her response. Hemp is an extraordinary, diverse and sustainable crop. It can provide high-protein food, building materials, plastic replacements and clothing and could speed up Victoria’s move away from native timber logging and towards a net zero emissions target. Do you agreed these multitudes of applications could make hemp a prime candidate for a grant scheme?
Bev McArthur (Western Victoria):
It’s so good you don’t need a grant.
I thank the member for the question – and an interesting interjection from the other side. Can I say that in terms of the R and D that we are undertaking a lot of that is not just to do with the industry per se but in terms of applications as well, and of course a zero emissions target is at the front and centre of the government’s agenda in terms of climate change, and obviously, having agriculture, that is also very much part of my priority as well. So we look forward to having further research and discussion with the industry in terms of the different forms of application that hemp might be able to provide our economy.