Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2522..
MS CARNELL (continuing):
productive assets, estimated to be a permanent and annual liability of $290,000. However, the commissioner made no attempt to judge whether the community benefits of banning the production and sale of battery eggs outweigh these costs.
In undertaking the test the commission also examined section 24B of the amended Food Act that requires the compulsory labelling of egg cartons to indicate the manner in which eggs have been produced. The commission determined that the benefits associated with labelling in terms of better community information would outweigh any increase in producers' costs. Furthermore, the commission found that the benefits would be greater if interstate producers were also required to label the eggs they sell in the ACT. This required a second permanent exemption to the Mutual Recognition Act.
Mr Speaker, following the commission's report I wrote to State Premiers and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory seeking their agreement to amend the permanent exemptions schedule to the Mutual Recognition Act. There were two aspects to my request: First, agreement to add section 24A(1) of the ACT's Food Act to the permanent exemptions listed in Schedule 2 to the Mutual Recognition Act. This action would prevent the sale in the ACT of battery hen eggs produced outside the ACT. Second, agreement to add section 24B of the ACT's Food Act to the permanent exemptions listed in Schedule 2 to the Mutual Recognition Act. This action would make it compulsory for interstate egg producers to label the eggs they sell in the ACT to indicate the manner in which the eggs were produced. A copy of the Productivity Commission's report was included with my correspondence.
Mr Speaker, a response has now been received from all jurisdictions. On the issue of banning the sale in the ACT of battery hen eggs produced in other States, not one jurisdiction agreed to the amendment. Of all the jurisdictions, only the Northern Territory agreed to amend the permanent exemptions schedule to require the compulsory labelling of eggs sold in the ACT.
In their replies, jurisdictions have indicated that special consideration was given to preserving the intent of the mutual recognition scheme which, as I previously mentioned, was developed after all states and territories recognised a need to remove the regulatory restrictions that impeded interstate trade in goods. Although the ACT's request may only be seen as minor in the general scheme of mutual recognition, broadening of the permanent exemptions could lead to a significant weakening of the scheme.
As I have stated before, under the mutual recognition agreement, changes to the permanent exemptions can only be made with the unanimous consent of heads of government. As unanimous agreement has not been obtained, the amendments to the Mutual Recognition Act cannot go ahead. As a result, eggs produced from interstate battery cage systems can still be sold in the ACT. Furthermore, only ACT based producers will be required to label the eggs they sell in the ACT to indicate the manner in which the eggs were produced. I have recently written to the Prime Minister informing him of this outcome.