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Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 2219

Senator McCARTHY (Northern Territory) (19:27): I would like to speak about the visit I had recently in the Northern Territory with the Seafood Council. I met with Katherine Winchester and Rob Fish from the Northern Territory Seafood Council, who have been working quite passionately in support of the industry.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Excuse me, Senator McCarthy. I know it is exciting that there is the opportunity for people to now leave the chamber and go home, but I would ask to hear Senator McCarthy's contribution in silence. Thank you, Senators.

Senator McCARTHY: It is very exciting, what I have to say.

A government senator interjecting

Senator McCARTHY: It is about the Northern Territory, the best territory here in this country, and I urge all senators to visit and do some fishing. There are great barramundi up my way—

Senator Scullion interjecting

Senator McCARTHY: as my fellow senator from the Northern Territory would know. I had the chance to meet with Katherine Winchester and Rob Fish and talk about some of the issues that concern the NT Seafood Council. There is an increasing demand for seafood in Australia and there is certainly a strong push, not just from the Northern Territory Seafood Council but from business owners and consumers, to have greater transparency of labelling requirements for imported seafood. The NT Seafood Council reports that Australians eat 200,000 tonnes of seafood per year and this trend continues to rise. With an increase in demand comes an increase in jobs in the seafood industry and investment. The Australian prawn industry is planning to increase its production by 50 per cent for the Australian market. This expansion across the Northern Territory, Far North Queensland and Western Australia is projected to create 1,700 jobs.

The country-of-origin labelling gives the consumer the opportunity to make informed decisions about their seafood consumption. According to the Label My Fish campaign, most Australians do not know that about 72 per cent of the seafood we eat is imported. They do not know this because it is not labelled. There is no requirement to indicate the country of origin of seafood sold for immediate consumption, so consumers lack easy access to information that would enable them to make informed decisions about what seafood to purchase.

The Northern Territory Seafood Council has also highlighted the impact this more transparent labelling will have on business. In 2008 the previous Northern Territory Labor government introduced country-of-origin labelling for cooked and pre-prepared seafood. According to the Seafood Council, this labelling has resulted in an increase of the consumption of seafood in NT restaurants. Darwin business owner Jason Hanna owns four restaurants in Darwin. He has told the Northern Territory Seafood Council that customers want to know where the product they have ordered comes from. They want to know if it is local or if it is imported. The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation project reports tracking the impacts on seafood consumption at dining venues arising from the Northern Territory's seafood-labelling laws showed that one business owner reported a 20 per cent increase in seafood sales after the country-of-origin labelling was introduced.

Transparent labelling also benefits Australian producers, and the market becomes an even playing field. The country-of-origin labelling in the Northern Territory has resulted in the retail sector reporting the biggest selling fish are now the Australian red snapper and Australian-grown red snapper.

I would certainly urge all states and territories to protect our industry and to grow our own. We saw today in recent media reports what is happening in Victoria, with the possible threat to at least 1,000 jobs there in terms of SPC and their negotiation with Woolworths. I certainly encourage the big corporates to look at the local grown companies around Australia. Support our industries. Make sure that we have jobs for all Australians.