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Monday, 18 October 2010
Page: 407

Mr GEORGANAS (11:46 AM) —I too rise to speak in support of the motion on food labelling and to congratulate the member for Kingston for bringing the motion before the House. I know how passionate she is about this subject, being the member for a region where growers produce some of the best extra virgin olive oil in the world and knowing how important it is to safeguard the good name of the olive oil and other produce which comes from the region south of the metropolitan area.

Few topics arouse as much passion within my electorate of Hindmarsh and beyond as the subject of food, be it the jobs that food production provides or, in this case, the nature—for lack of a better term—of the food which we eat. Few topics incubate fear like a food scare, substantiated or otherwise, and the sickness and even death that are feared to be knocking on the inside of the refrigerator door. The nature of what we consume, the food we ingest, should be our choice.

We have heard all the speakers on this motion say how important it is that we have that choice, that we know where a particular product is produced and what ingredients it contains and that that information is easily accessible. In a society based on political equality, a market economy and the freedoms that these features give, the consumer’s right to choose what he or she eats is important. This right is common sense. It is self-evident. This is at the heart of the community’s passion for food labelling and at the heart of its interest in the current independent review of labelling laws.

The review’s first round of public consultation commenced on 26 October 2009 and was open for about one month, in which time interested stakeholders were invited to make brief written submissions on food labelling issues. Over 6,600 submissions were received. In excess of 6,000 of these were from consumers and more than 5,000 were from coordinated campaigns focused on GM, nanotechnology, additives and allergens. The submissions were used to prepare an issues paper, which received further submissions and which will be used to prepare a report to COAG in December this year. The review is important for re-establishing what people want in our nation’s laws, what we as a people need in our laws and how all of this can be done effectively and fairly. The greatest consideration is, I believe, public confidence in the laws and the labels that industry prepares for the consumer’s benefit as a result of the laws. It is this public confidence in food labelling that all of us hope the overall review process will be able to increase.

Naturally, people want numerous things from any one label—information on health safety; health benefits; and details of ingredients, their composition, their origin and their path to the table—all in a succinct and easy to digest spread. There is clear demand for what could, in total, amount to potentially vast amounts of information on labels. I am sure we are all frustrated by the ‘Made in Australia’ and ‘Product of Australia’ tags and the ability to dilute the true meaning of these labels. If no other matter were constructively resolved by this review and the resultant legislation, I would hope that this would be.

I would like to draw your attention to some of the submissions to the review. Each is interesting in its own way. One person, Pamela Williams, who has been fighting chronic kidney disease, wrote of the difficulty in finding information on potassium and especially the phosphorus content of food products—elements best avoided to maintain what health kidney disease sufferers are able to maintain. She submits that there is no phosphorus information on labels. While some products’ contents can be researched online, others are not even that transparent. This is one area where a current omission in labelling laws may well have a very real impact on a person’s health. While fat and salt content can be labelled, perhaps phosphorous and other elements can be also. How many other chemicals or compounds could be a very real issue to people with any one of myriad chronic diseases in our society? Can we realistically demand that industry list them all? (Time expired)