Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 293 ..
The ACT government has always disagreed with the maximum 10,000 hens per hectare definition of free-range eggs in the commonwealth information standard. We objected to it at the meeting where it was passed. However, the 10,000 hens per hectare standard has now come into force across Australia. ACT producers and retailers have been complying with the commonwealth information standard since it became law in April 2018. However, as the ACT's inconsistent definition of free-range eggs remains on our statute book, there is potential for community confusion about the applicable definition of free range.
To eliminate this inconsistency, the bill formally aligns the ACT's definition with the commonwealth information standard. ACT law will therefore permit eggs to be labelled and sold as free range if produced by hens subject to a maximum stocking density of up to 10,000 hens per hectare.
Nevertheless, the bill also recognises that many people in our community have a different idea of free range from what the national definition now permits. Canberrans are a caring community and many purchase eggs with the interests of hens in mind. Ms Cheyne has made this point very well. It is important that these consumers, when they purchase eggs labelled free range, are getting what they expect.
The ACT government, along with many consumers and animal welfare bodies, does not agree that hens kept at stocking densities of 10,000 per hectare are actually living in free-range conditions. That is why this bill will provide consumers with free range information through a simple and effective solution: amending the content of signs which retailers display next to free-range eggs.
The new signs will state that the ACT government supports a stocking density of 1,500 birds or fewer per hectare, which is also the maximum stocking standard supported by the CSIRO, RSPCA and consumer advocacy group CHOICE. The context for this is that, under the new rules, all egg producers are also required to put on their labels the stocking density they operate under, so that when consumers come along they will be able to see that on the labels. Many people who have bought eggs recently will see that that information is now available.
The new sign will provide consumers with context that helps them make sense of the different maximum stocking densities that are currently displayed on each carton of free-range eggs. With this information being easily accessible, consumers can make quick, easy and genuinely informed comparisons between brands of free-range eggs at the point of sale. This simple change is important for consumers who care about hens and want to make ethical purchasing decisions at the supermarket.
Canberrans can rightly expect every purchase they make to be a dollar well spent. This is particularly true of staple everyday items like eggs and fuel. The changes contained in this bill will empower consumers to make genuinely informed purchasing choices that suit their budgets, needs and, in the case of free-range eggs, ethical standards. I commend the bill to the Assembly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.