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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2035


Mr HOGAN (PageDeputy Nationals Whip) (12:44): I rise to speak in favour of the Imported Food Control Amendment (Country of Origin) Bill 2017 and on the amendment. It's great to have the minister in the chamber, as well as the member for Wide Bay, because there are some things he may be unaware of, and I think he should be aware of some of the wonderful things that are happening in agriculture, especially in my area.

For a number of reasons, people have an intrinsic right to know where their food comes from. It was quite clear from a lot of research that had been done by the department that people thought that the labelling laws that we had were messy and confusing and, indeed, led to labels that weren't accurate. There are things that clear labelling does. I think the Australian people have a preference to buy homegrown food and to be very clear about all the ingredients in products that they are buying and where they're from, because I think the intrinsic nature of Australian consumers is that they would always support a homegrown or local product above an imported product.

I could—in fact, I'm going to—give you a number of examples, just from my region, of homegrown products and why they are fully supported by the locals, albeit sometimes at a higher price, because they know (1) that the product is clean and (2) that they are supporting the local economy and local people in buying them. Norco—you may well have heard of it, Deputy Speaker—is a dairy co-op in my region. They have a great name and produce great milk products, including ice cream. When you go into a local supermarket or store in my region, the Norco milks are always the first to go. They are not the cheapest, but because people are aware that it's a homegrown, local product—the labelling is pretty clear—that's what people are going to go for. We also have a local meat co-op, the Northern Co-operative Meat Company. Simon Stahl and the team there do a wonderful job. The products from that meatworks are very well supported in our region. We have a blueberry industry and a fishing industry, and we have much, much more. We have a lot of water too—which may interest the minister—to produce this great product.

Blueberries are a very important industry, and I know that the minister is doing great work. We've just recently got blueberries onto the list to discuss the protocols for export so we can get blueberries into China, and we already have access to many markets. That industry on its own has turned around two regions in my electorate. One is Woolgoolga. Gurmesh Singh is the chair of the Oz Berries co-op there. It's a big industry employing many locals in the Woolgoolga region and, indeed, backpackers who travel through as well. Another company is run by Ridley Bell, in a huge blueberry-growing area that he's developed in the last few years out at Tabulam. I remember the first time I went to Tabulam after he'd set up and had the pickers there. Tabulam is, with all due respect, not a big place. I drove around. The cafe was packed. There were people everywhere. I thought: 'What's going on here? There must be a party on or something.' But it was just the industry that had been built there and the jobs that were there. There were a lot of young people, all working and helping the economy of Tabulam.

I could go on and on, but I will be brief, because I'm very interested in hearing what the minister has to say about this. Again, the essence of this bill is that there was extensive community consultation done. The labelling laws in this country were unclear, and consumers in some ways were being misled. We are not banning imports. Obviously we're still very happy with the imports that we have. People are free to export to us as well. We had lots of consultation with the right bodies to make that clear to people who were exporting into our country. But the Australian consumer will benefit from this legislation and from the laws that we're passing as a government. The agricultural sector is crucial. We understand it. Agricultural prices have gone up since we've been in government—for a variety of reasons, not just because we're in government. We have developed a co-op centre of excellence in my region. We understand the magic of the co-op sector and that business model, and there are lots of exciting things happening there. It is a good bill, good for Australian consumers and good for the Australian agricultural sector. I commend the bill.