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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1740

Mr PITT (Hinkler) (10:56): I rise today to speak on a very topical and important subject around food labelling, an issue which has been in the press recently, which is of great concern to the people in my electorate and of course to the incredible amount of local manufacturers who produce food for this nation. It has been identified that a number of hepatitis A cases have resulted through the purchase of overseas food products which were packaged and delivered into this country. Certainly, if you look at the comments on places like social media, you see that the electorate is overwhelming in support of clear truth in labelling for Australian produced products—things that are manufactured and grown in this country.

I congratulate Rowan Ramsey, the chair of the agricultural committee, who put out a very timely report just before Christmas, and ministers Joyce, Macfarlane, Billson and Nash who have been tasked with identifying a way to address this issue and to act in the very short-term. I went to a meeting last week where they asked for us as backbenchers to provide information as soon as possible. We have a one-week timeframe to get feedback from our electorates. So I was very pleased to be able to talk to some major food manufacturers inside my electorate, including places like Bundaberg Brewed Drinks—which of course is owned by the Fleming family, a world famous manufacturer and former Queensland exporter of the year; Macadamias Australia and the Steinhart family, which produces wonderful products such as chocolate coated macadamias for export and the local market; and Austchilli, owned by the De Paoli family, who provide products including things like AvoFresh—a well-known product available locally and made predominately from local products.

Of course, not everyone agrees all time, but the overwhelming majority of the manufacturers I spoke to—and there were far more than just the ones that I have named—were in support of truth in labelling, such as a simple pictogram; something which identifies exactly where the food is sourced from, where it is manufactured and where it is produced. On the condition of anonymity, a number of other producers that I spoke to were very quick to lay the blame at the feet of the duopoly, saying that Coles and Woolworths are almost solely responsible for the position we find ourselves in. It is quite simply a disgrace that they have forced our local producers off the market by predatory practices—and, of course, they have a lot form in this area.

The reason that they are using overseas products is that they simply cannot meet the incredibly strong demands from Coles and Woolworths for very low-price product and many of them have gone out of the market. I could give you countless examples of very large farmers who have fallen over due to these practices, including in places like SP Exports in the Childers location. They employed some 600 people who are now no longer with us. It is incredibly unfortunate. I look forward to being able to put together the feedback from people in my electorate to get that submission to the taskforce. I look forward to us taking direct action in the short term. The time for inquiries has finished. We do not need more reports; we just need to act.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Irons ): Order! In accordance with standing order 193 the time for constituency statements has concluded.