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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 386

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesMinister for Industry, Innovation and Science) (18:32): We acknowledge the need to improve the certainty around labelling requirements—that is why we are making these changes to the country-of-origin safe harbour defences, which are meant to address some of the concerns of business. We have revised the safe harbour provisions to clarify and simplify the rules for making claims about where goods are made and to expand the resources available to business. The ACCC will be releasing improved guidance material on country-of-origin labelling under Australian Consumer Law and on its approach to enforcement. We have also developed an online decision tool which assists food businesses to identify and download appropriate labels for their products under the new country-of-origin labelling information standard. The changes proposed by the government have been informed by extensive consultation and by a regulation impact statement. Under an intergovernmental agreement, all these proposals for change must be agreed by the Commonwealth and all states and territories—it is a bit like the GST. The Commonwealth cannot make changes to Australian Consumer Law without going through that lengthy process again.

Lastly, it is important to note that the new arrangements put forward in this bill and the new information standard will be reviewed two years after the end of the transition period. This will provide the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of these reforms in meeting their objectives. Certainly on behalf of the government I am willing to give you undertakings in relation to this review. Obviously we want to monitor this and make it successful. The fact that parties on all sides think that this is a good way to go and that this is a good start is very encouraging to me. I do not believe, at this stage, that we have adequately looked at the costs and benefits of what Senator Xenophon has proposed, but I believe we are giving assistance to industry. Proper guidance in relation to safe harbours, as well as additional resources, should provide some comfort for them as they go through this process.

I have looked at the labelling. I think it looks good and I think it is much easier to understand. We are talking here about substantial transformation; we are not talking about slicing and dicing and making some change in the canning. We are putting a lot of resources, including an advertising campaign, into informing consumers and businesses about how this is going to operate.