Local, Independant and Effective

QT - AMFP food producers call for clearer food labelling

Posted June 02, 2015


CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (14:17): My question is to the Minister for Industry and Science. Minister, the government recently announced its intention to change food labelling laws. On Friday in Wodonga there was a gathering of over 150 businesses at the Australian manufacturing and farming forum. They raised labelling as a key concern for the future of food manufacturing. Can the minister please update the House on country-of-origin labelling reform and describe how proposed changes will maintain Indi's and Australia's competitive advantage?

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Groom—Minister for Industry and Science) (14:17): I thank the member for Indi—

Mr (Tony) Burke interjecting—

Mr IAN MACFARLANE: I do not know what you are laughing about. I do not think that is right. In fact, the science fraternity are wondering what your side is doing on science. I thank the member for Indi for her question and agree wholeheartedly that the rural sector of Australia are waiting for this government to put in place labelling laws that work. This is not a quick-fix solution; it is a solution which we are all going to have to make sure we get right. That is part of the process. I understand the staff of the member for Indi attended a food labelling workshop in Albury. In fact, across April and May there have been 16 such workshops around Australia as we consult with industry groups, businesses and primary producers about making
sure we get the legislation right. It is a process that has to be meticulous, and it is a process that is receiving widespread support from right across the food production and processing level.

We need labelling that consumers understand. We need labelling where primary producers' well-earned reputation for clean, green Australian food is clearly defined. We are working towards that now. The government is about to begin a significant market research and consumer testing process this month. It has contracted a company to conduct national representative consumer testing.

There is a high level of public interest in this issue, as the member for Indi points out. As a result of that, we are going to release a community survey so that any member of the public can provide their feedback. In fact, I am going to ask every member of this House—in fact, both houses—to share this survey with the constituents of their electorate or state, in the case of senators, to ensure we get as broad as possible input into this so that the Minister for Agriculture, the Assistant Minister for Health, the Minister for Trade and Investment and I can sit down and make sure we get this right. In the end, the most important thing about food labelling is that consumers know the country of origin of the food they are consuming.

I am also working with my state and territory colleagues. We need the state governments to assist us in this process. In the end, this will deliver for primary producers in Australia a food labelling scheme which will identify Australian food clearly on containers.

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