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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 990

Food Labelling

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:59): My question is to Senator Canavan, the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia representing the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. Can the minister update the Senate on what the government is doing to ensure that Australian consumers have clear and accurate food origin labelling information?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (15:00): I thank Senator Williams for his question. At the start and outset, I acknowledge his longstanding interest in this issue and, indeed, his long campaigning for clearer and better food labels on Australian products. It has been something I know he has been at for years and it is a tribute to his hard effort but also a reflection of why we should work hard in this place. You can get results. It can take some time at times, but Senator Williams, you have had a win here with the government supporting you to introduce clearer labels for Australian consumers. And we are doing that because Australians want to back Australian farmers. They want to back Australian food manufacturers. But previously and until now they have had a hard way of doing that in the shops, because it has been hard to distinguish from the labelling that is on our products what truly is Australian-made and what only might be partly Australian-made.

Until now, many labels were able to use a made-in-Australia logo or label when only small amounts or minor processes like packaging, slicing, diluting, crumbing or canning were the elements that were made in Australia. The changes that this government is making will ensure that consumers will know that behind their purchase will be real Australian jobs and/or Australian food grown in Australia. The reforms will ensure that a new logo system will apply. It is in a transition period at the moment. People will be seeing these logos in their shops at the moment. From 30 June 2018, Australians can go into a shop and, if they see a kangaroo triangle, it will indicate on the food packaging that there are real jobs or manufacturing behind the processing of that food. There will also be a bar chart underneath it which identifies the proportion of Australian ingredients grown by our Australian farmers. So this is an excellent initiative that we are rolling out that Australians have wanted. The Australian government has listened, and it will now be easier for Australians to back their fellow Australians in food manufacturing and farming.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a supplementary question.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (15:02): I thank the minister. I am glad I got it through before I died of old age. Can the minister outline what benefits these changes bring to businesses and consumers?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (15:02): As I was saying to the senator's earlier question, this is something that Australian consumers want. We know that because surveys have revealed that 74 per cent of Australians think it is important or very important to be able to identify the country of origin of their food. And almost three-quarters thought the changes to a country-of-origin food labelling are required and 71 per cent—so almost all of those people—are prepared to pay more for it. Only two or three per cent of those people that thought it was important were not willing to pay more. This is something the consumers want. They are willing to pay for it and therefore it is right and proper that the government does take action to ensure that Australian consumers can have what they want. And that will also mean that not only will Australian consumers be able to exercise their choice in the supermarket; it will also mean that those choices flow through to protecting and ensuring that Australian businesses can compete in the marketplace and can sell that they are a good business providing jobs for Australians or Australian farmers. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a final supplementary question.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (15:03): Can the minister inform the Senate of how business is responding these changes?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (15:03): As I said earlier, there is a transition period at the moment, so there will be some labels in supermarkets occurring right now. I give credit to those companies such as Beechworth, Mersey Valley and Nando's, who are already taking action to put their country-of-origin labelling system up to date with the new requirements. By the 31 June 2018, the new labelling system will be complete. The government is ensuring that people understand this new labelling system. Last year, there was an education campaign that ran in April, and soon the government will be recommencing that education campaign to let Australian consumers know what these labels do mean and make sure that they can have an impact in the supermarkets of our country. We designed these labels based on consultation with the Australian consumers about what was clear and important for them, and it is great to see these changes now rolling out and producing benefits for Australian consumers, farmers and manufacturers.

Senator Brandis: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.