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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2036


Mr LITTLEPROUD (MaranoaMinister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (12:49): I thank the member for Page for an outstanding contribution. The Imported Food Control Amendment (Country of Origin) Bill 2017 is part of a series of legislative changes required to fully implement reforms to country-of-origin labelling that were introduced by the coalition government in July 2016.

Australians want to support Australian farmers. Seventy-four per cent agreed it is important to be able to identify the country of origin of food, and 73 per cent agreed changes to country-of-origin labelling were required. We listened, acted and delivered on our election commitment.

These reforms mean that shoppers will soon find it easier to buy Australian food, with new country-of-origin labelling standards set to become compulsory. These reforms address longstanding consumer confusion and frustration about country-of-origin claims on food products. The reforms give consumers clearer and more meaningful origin information to support their buying preferences. It means that shoppers can easily choose clean, green Aussie produce and support Australian farmers. All we have to do is give them the information. Our labelling changes require a bar graph showing how much of the product is Australian. We've already seen big and small businesses, including SPC, Nestle, Bulla and Woolworths, using the labels. The county-of-origin labelling system has been voluntary since it was introduced in mid-2016, but from 1 July this year it will become compulsory. For businesses yet to include the country-of-origin standards on their labels four months might seem like a long time, but it will soon be upon us.

The bill is needed because country-of-origin labelling will cease to be enforceable under the Imported Food Control Act 1992 on 1 July 2018. The bill will ensure that the new country-of-origin requirements under the new Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016 can be enforced under the Imported Food Control Act. They make it clear to importers that they are required to comply with the country-of-origin food labelling requirements. Imported products will continue to be required to be labelled with the country of origin—for example, 'product of Thailand' or 'made in Canada'—and would need to meet the new rules around 'made in' and 'packed in' claims.

For priority foods, importers are required to make their country-of-origin claim in a box on the label so it can be easily found by consumers. They are not allowed to use the kangaroo symbol, as the product is not of Australian origin. This means that authorised officers of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources can maintain legislative control to enforce country-of-origin labelling for imported foods at the border. The bill makes sure that this change will not impact the compliance arrangements for country-of-origin labelling for imported food at the border. Country-of-origin labelling will continue to be enforced by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme. So, in effect, it will be business as usual at the border for country-of-origin labelling for food.

I note the opposition's proposed second reading amendment, asserting that the coalition government has failed to implement effectively policies to ensure Australian agriculture achieves its full potential. The assertion in this amendment could not be further from the truth. The coalition government is delivering for the hardworking men and women of Australia's farms and rural industries. We're investing in the future of agriculture by delivering on initiatives in the $4 billion Australian agricultural competitiveness white paper to help make our farm enterprises stronger and more resilient. We are creating the environment for improved prices for farm commodities, and the fruits of our labour are showing. Australia's total agricultural production was worth $63.4 billion in 2016-17, up 30 per cent since we came to office. The value of agricultural exports is up 27 per cent since we came to office, to nearly $49 billion.

We have recently signed the comprehensive and progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and have delivered free trade agreements with three key Asian markets: China, Japan and Korea. We have also signed the Peru FTA. These agreements help open the door to export more produce. The Peru FTA has meant a 99.4 per cent cut in agricultural tariffs to Peru. In terms of the two-way trade, this agreement is predicted to be worth $435 million. These arrangements are game changers for Australian farmers. They help open the door to export more of Australia's clean, green, quality produce. We continue to work to negotiate new and improved market access into our key markets. We have also worked hard to secure the immediate and progressive removal of tariffs and non-tariff-related barriers for our beef, pork, sheep, dairy, sugar, cotton, wool and grains industries. We successfully passed legislation to establish the Regional Investment Corporation functions and governance arrangements through the parliament on 6 February 2018. It will deliver farm business loans to farmers in a nationally consistent and efficient manner. We have also expanded by biosecurity funding by over 29 per cent since Labor left office, including up to $200 million as part of the agricultural competitiveness white paper.

By contrast, Labor have no vision or plan for agriculture and pretend to care for farmers, but all their actions prove the opposite. Only the coalition delivers for jobs in regional Australia, and this includes delivering on country-of-origin labelling. For many years, Australians have been demanding changes to origin claims on food labels, wanting them to be clearer, more meaningful and accurate. The coalition government has listened and delivered. I look forward to more business providing greater transparency about where food was made or packed and how much was sourced from Australian growers. More Australians buying more Australian goods because of the country-of-origin requirements will mean more investment and jobs in Australia. I commend the bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Hunter has moved an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view of substituting other words. The immediate question is that the amendment be agreed to. There being more than one voice calling for a division, in accordance with standing order 133 the division is deferred until after the discussion of the matter of public importance.

Debate adjourned.