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Wednesday, 16 December 1992
Page: 5163

Senator COOK (Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Shipping and Aviation Support) (1.47 p.m.) —The Government will oppose the amendment. I understand the idealistic sentiment behind it, and I commend that sentiment, but the view the Government takes is that if an importer brings in food that does not meet our standard that does not mean that the Government should seize that food or direct how it should be dealt with, except for one important qualification I will come to. If the owners of that food can export it elsewhere and meet the qualifications of another country, or return that food to source and have it involved in another process that makes it acceptable, they should be able to have that choice.

  If we were to prohibit that choice, my kerbside view—not, I might say, as a lawyer—is that there may well be an action open to the owner of the property to the Commonwealth, on the grounds that compensation is payable and I do not think it is desirable that that chink should be opened. The one exception we see to that rule is that if the food clearly cannot be utilised in any other fashion and is, for example, toxic then its re-export should be prohibited. The way we have proposed the Bill it would be. If the food does not meet our standards but meets some other standards, the owner of the food should be able to have the choice of how to deal with it and we should not impose the standards that we want for Australians on the rest of the world simply by saying, `You cannot do that and you cannot have that option despite your investment in the product'.

  While I understand the idealistic plane from which Senator Kernot addresses this matter, there are some practical questions that have to be considered and, for that reason, the Government will not support the amendment.