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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 6073

Senator COLBECK (TasmaniaAssistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (17:28): I thank senators for their contributions to this piece of legislation, the Imported Food Control Amendment Bill 2017. As has been, I think, well explained during the debate, this bill modernises Australia's approach to food safety, associated particularly with imported food, adapting to changes in how food is traded around the globe while carefully balancing the risks associated with food safety. Practical measures to strengthen the management of imported food safety being introduced with the bill will increase importers' accountability for food safety, increase importers' sourcing of safe food, improve the monitoring and management of new and emerging food safety risks and improve incident response. To address concerns for particular types of food where at-border testing alone isn't sufficient to ensure safety, the bill will introduce a requirement for importers to have documentary evidence to demonstrate that effective food safety controls are in place throughout the supply chain to ensure food is safe for human consumption. Although there has been some hyperbole around the imported berries incident that occurred in 2015, it's worth noting that both of those importers did have quality assurance systems in place for the importation of those products.

Responsiveness to food safety incidents will be improved by allowing earlier intervention where there are reasonable grounds to believe that food may pose a serious risk to human health or if the food safety issue is unconfirmed or where there is no reliable test that can be applied to detect the food safety hazard. To ensure a proportionate response, particular characteristics of food can be targeted. This will avoid unnecessary holding of unaffected food.

The bill provides for recognition of a foreign country's food safety regulatory system based on equivalence with Australia's food safety regulatory system. That is important. Australia is recognised as having a very good food safety regulatory system. It's one of the attributes that is recognised in our export markets, and it's something that we need to ensure we protect the reputation of. Food imported from a country assessed as having an equivalent food safety regulatory system to Australia's may be subject to reduced or minimal at-border food inspections, except where there is evidence of noncompliance or food safety risk. This will reduce border intervention for food importers. Additionally, this will ensure border intervention activities are not aimed unnecessarily at safe food.

The bill provides a modern compliance framework with new and improved tools to enable more effective and efficient targeting of non-compliant food and importer behaviour. These tools also provide greater flexibility and more opportunity to encourage non-compliant food importers to become compliant. This is achieved through the introduction of a range of penalties that can be applied proportionately and consistently, based on the level of risk posed by the offence committed.

Overall, the bill will strengthen Australia's imported food safety management system, enabling Australians to continue to enjoy a wide range of quality and safe food from around the world. It will ensure that Australia's food importers will be able to continue to source high-quality ingredients to produce world-class food—highly sought after both in Australia and around the world—and support Australia's role as a good global citizen by improving Australia's ability to work proactively with trading partners in ensuring food safety across the globe. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.