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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 270


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (12:42): In 1993, or around then, I came to this building in Canberra to lobby friends in the National Party for country-of-origin labelling, because the then Hawke/Keating Labor government allowed the importation of pig meat from places such as Denmark and Canada. My brother, Peter, and I had a 100-sow piggery, feeding about 1,000 pigs a day and I found it quite frustrating that they would import pig meat into Australia, process it into ham, and brand it 'Manufactured in Australia' or 'Product of Australia'. It was so misleading. All I wanted was a fair go to see that the Australian people knew what they were buying—whether it was grown in Australia, processed in Australia, imported, processed here from Australian and imported blends et cetera.

Since 1993 it has been a long, frustrating road, I can assure you. We all know that the wheels of parliament do not go very fast. During the berry contamination issue about 18 months ago, where many Australians contracted hepatitis because of some imported berries, I stood up in the joint party room—Senator Sinodinos was there—and said to the then Prime Minister, 'Mr Abbott, we need a country-of-origin food labelling system so that people can clarify what they are buying and eating.' To his full credit, Mr Abbott said, 'Let's get on with it.' That is where we have come to right along this road of country-of-origin labelling.

It will be good to see the Australian kangaroo and the green triangle—a very well-known label that is very familiar, I would say, to all shoppers in Australia. It will have 'Grown in Australia' and the bar code underneath will be completely orange. You will know that the food you are about to eat for the can of whatever you are purchasing was grown, processed and packaged here in Australia. It will show the blends that will come forward—what percentage is actually made from imported ingredients and from Australian ingredients. I must agree with Senator Macdonald as far as the fishing industry goes. Mr Acting Deputy President Sterle, you were on a committee with us in the Northern Territory. What a great thing it is that Northern Territorians know exactly where their fish is coming from—70 per cent imported. I think that is where we need to make progress as well, on that very issue. All we are asking is that people know what they are eating and where it comes from.

Debate interrupted.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Sterle ): It being 12.45, the time for the debate has expired.