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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1779

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (13:29): I will start by addressing the inaccuracies in the member for Fremantle's motion. Food Standards Australia New Zealand do not require testing, as they do not set the testing regime. Rather, they identify which foods and imports of foodstuffs are considered high risk and then the Department of Agriculture determines the testing regime. Currently, and indeed previously under the Labor-Greens alliance government, those foods deemed high risk are subject to 100 per cent inspection for five shipments, dropping to 25 per cent for 20 shipments and then to five per cent. Unfortunately, berries were not identified as a high-risk item, but I believe that has already been appropriately addressed by the Minister for Agriculture, who has asked Food Standards Australia New Zealand to reassess the risk associated with berries. I cannot support this part of the motion as it is not true. However, local growers are not required by the government to test for chemicals. As everyone knows, there are international standards for allowable limits of chemical residue from pesticides and fertilisers, so the testing that is done is a commercial imperative for growers to be able to ensure their product is fit for market.

As for the rest of the motion, in 2011 I spoke in this place on this very issue. I spoke about consumers being well and truly tired of guessing where their food comes from. The Blewett report, commissioned by the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council and released on the 28 January 2011, addressed many of the issues we are talking about today. For example, this motion, at (1)(d), states that labelling is confusing regarding country-of-origin labelling. Unlike points (b) and (c) of this motion, that is true. But why is it confusing? The Blewett report, at recommendations 40 and 41 out of 62, asked that country-of-origin laws be extended to include:

That for foods bearing some form of Australian claim, a consumer-friendly, food-specific country-of-origin labelling framework, based primarily on the ingoing weight of the ingredients and components (excluding water), be developed.

Four years ago, the ALP-Greens de facto relationship had a chance to address the issue of food-specific country-of-origin labelling. Their response was that they did not support either of the recommendations related to country-of-origin labelling, because it was all a bit too hard. How often has that been the excuse of those opposite—food labelling? A bit too hard. Stopping the boats, stopping deaths at sea and keeping children out of detention? A bit too hard. Responsibly managing the economy? A bit too hard. Fortunately for consumers, we now have a government which is not afraid of hard work and is not afraid to make decisions in the national interest—in the interests of all Australians.

As Minister Joyce said on 26 February, 'People want to know exactly where their food comes from, and this is the government that is going to do it.' Better labelling will be backed up by enhanced screening at the border. The coalition government is strong on border protection and that means biosecurity as well. It will still not be possible to test every single food item that arrives in Australia, but, as I said earlier, the Department of Agriculture has requested that Food Standards Australia New Zealand review the way they identify risk foods.

It pays to remember that this is a regime that has served our country well until this incident. There are always risks associated with importing food across great distances, and that is what our border protection forces are trained to deal with. I support the work they do. Over 98 percent of all foods imported are declared clear of disease and other contaminants when they arrive in Australia, according to the imported food inspection data released by the Department of Agriculture. That is a very good pass rate. I believe that consumers can remain confident that the vast majority of imported foods are at the standard we expect.

While I support the general thrust of this motion, as I did four years ago when the then Labor government rejected them, I must also admonish those opposite for failing to act when they were told by one of their own, Dr Neal Blewett, to do so. I support this motion in principle but reject the cheap partisan politics that characterise this opposition. The coalition government has a good track record in this field, and it is time for Labor to get on board and stop putting politics ahead of the people of Australia.

Debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 13:34 to 16 : 00