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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 3074

Mr WOOD (La Trobe) (17:58): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes:

(a) that palm oil, because of its low cost, is a common ingredient in many packaged foods, often supplementing vegetable oil; and

(b) the misleading labelling of palm oil in Australian products, often labelled as vegetable oil, with 50 per cent of products sold in supermarkets containing palm oil;

(2) further notes that palm oil has high levels of saturated fat with over 50 per cent of its composition being saturated fat, which is very dangerous to consumers with heart or other conditions;

(3) recognises the damage to the environment and endangered animals as a result of mass deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia which has led to the exponential threat of extinction to animals such as orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses, all of which are already critically endangered; and

(4) calls on the Government to change the labelling laws on products sold in Australia to require products to clearly state when they contain palm oil.

Australians regularly indicate a desire for better food labelling standards. That is what Australians want, and I stand here today to support the call for clear and transparent labelling on products containing palm oil. This call is for both health and environmental factors.

Palm oil is made up of 50 per cent saturated fat, which can affect cholesterol levels. Saturated fat is a major cause of coronary heart disease in Australia. Palm oil is potentially harmful to everyday consumers, as it is used in approximately 40 per cent of our food products. Everyday Australians buying from supermarkets would not be aware of this. It has been reported by the National Heart Foundation that every 23 minutes an Australian dies from heart disease in Australia. Palm oil is often listed as vegetable oil and also disguises itself under over 200 alternative names in food packaging. I will say that again: 200 alternative names.

It is time to tighten labelling laws to inform the consumer clearly about what is in the food that they are consuming. Palm oil is popular with food manufacturers because it is cheap compared to other oil options and, unlike other crops, only requires less than half the land to produce the same amount of oil. I am calling on all governments to change the labelling laws of products sold in Australia to ensure that they clearly state when they contain palm oil. This is to ensure that consumers have the ability to make informed choices on food and goods they are purchasing, consuming and feeding their children.

It is important to also note where the palm oil comes from. Palm oil comes from the palm fruit. During its harvesting, it produces immense quantities of smoke into the atmosphere, contributing significantly to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations Environmental Program reported that palm oil is a major driver of deforestation in Borneo and Sumatra. In Malaysia and Indonesia, there has been mass deforestation, which has led to the threat of animals such as the orangutan and other critically endangered species, including tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses. Palm oil production is a major issue contributing to deforestation and habit degrading through logging. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. Two orangutans die per day because of this deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations.

As a nation we need to join the ranks of the EU and America and ensure that mandatory labelling of palm oil made and sold in Australia. There is strong public interest in mandatory labelling of food and other products which contain palm oil. I thank the former Labor member for Wills, Kelvin Thompson, for his invitation to Melbourne Zoo, where I was briefed on the Don't Palm Us Off campaign, which has received 160,000 signatures on their petition. I congratulate Zoos Victoria CEO Jennie Gray; Director of Wildlife Conservation Science, Rachel Lowry; General Manager, Jacquie O'Brien; Primate Keeper Fleur Butcher, who travels overseas each year to help the orangutans; and campaign ambassador Kelvin Thompson. Ministers from across this country will be meeting on 25 November at the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulations, and I urge ministers to collectively agree on changing food labels in Australia.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hastie ): Is there a seconder for the motion?

Mr Van Manen: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.