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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 394

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesMinister for Industry, Innovation and Science) (18:59): I have a couple of points to begin with. The first is: in terms of the review process, I had in mind an informal process which involved dealing with the stakeholders. I was not going to set up a formalised working group with a fancy name and give it a big budget because I think this is an ongoing process. As I said before, there will be a review at the end of two years but within the two years there is going to be scope to be talking to people, including the Australian Made Campaign, about how this goes forward. I am happy to look at a more formal process. If that is something the shadow minister and others think would be a good thing, I am happy to discuss that further.

It will also have to go back to COAG in due course because we have come at this through a Commonwealth-state process. There will be a regulatory impact statement under Australian consumer law; there will be mechanisms. But I am happy to talk about this further. Having opened this can of worms, if you like, it is clear—and the Bertocchi the example that you use is an example of this—that there are issues where more flexibility is required and so we are acting in a way which promotes the needs of Australian enterprises. I accept that. I am willing to consult further on what the review process will be, but it will also involve that Commonwealth-state mechanism in due course.

In relation to what Senator Xenophon has said, again, I appreciate the spirit in which he has made those points. The regulation impact statement which was provided in the explanatory memorandum explored the relative importance to consumers of disclosing the origin of specific ingredients and the burden to business of responding to such a requirement. It concluded that consumers prefer to see origin information on labels, not digitally, and that they value knowing the Australian content of products more highly than the origin of specific ingredients. The regulation impact statement also concluded that it is not currently feasible for businesses in the food industry to make origin information on specific or all ingredients available digitally, especially for small and micro producers. I think this is where my concern is. It is one thing to be talking about a multinational corporation which has all sorts of resources to do all sorts of things and can finance all sorts of overheads, but in the case of the smaller producers in particular—and I think this is where the flexibility point comes in—we have to have some recognition of their particular needs. However, we will be working with the food business to examine mechanisms for improving the digital infrastructure of the food industry over time. From my point of view, it is more the SMEs which are an issue in that regard. We will continue to look at ways through which we can improve consumer access to the information that matters to them.