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Tuesday, 2 June 1987
Page: 3767

Ms MAYER —My question is directed to the Minister for Science in his capacity as Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Consumer Affairs. Is the Government in a position to indicate how costs in the food industry will be reduced through the adoption of a uniform food standards code?

Mr BARRY JONES —The adoption of the uniform food standards code throughout Australia will be of great benefit both to the industry and to families because it will lead to a reduction in the price of many food products. It means that now for the first time Commonwealth, States and Territories have substantially uniform food legislation, regulations and standards. The appropriate Ministers endorsed this in April of this year and it will provide for uniformity for food other than items such as bread which fall under specific product laws. It is the latest in a series of reforms of Australia's excessively complex food regulations and standards and is another good example of the way in which this Government is approaching the question of trying to reorganise the economy so that we move away from all the historic colonial trappings--

Mr Hayden —The credit for this belongs to you.

Mr BARRY JONES —Absolutely! Actually I am a usurper in a way because the great credit at the Commonwealth level lies in the hands of the Minister for Health, who has, with his customary grace and foresight, handed the area over to me in my enlarged area of consumer affairs.

We now have to look at the basis of the regulations. There are clearly absurdities such as the famous difference from State to State between the square tubs and the round tubs for margarine, which may have had some historic significance years ago but not now. On 13 March the Prime Minister announced the establishment of a Federal Bureau of Consumer Affairs. That Bureau will be responsible for Commonwealth policy on domestic food and beverage standards, packaging and labelling, product safety and information, including recalls. I think we can say that in the areas of consumer quality and price standards we are doing very well. Before concluding I want to pay tribute to the work of the honourable member for Canning, and his Price Watch Network, which in its most recent figures indicates that since the first survey a month ago 34 per cent of supermarkets surveyed have reduced their prices on basic grocery, meat and vegetable items. So the strategy laid down by the Prime Minister on 13 March is working and it is another example of how effective this Government has been.