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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 August 1995) . . Page.. 1309 ..


Wednesday, 23 August 1995

________________________

MR SPEAKER (Mr Cornwell) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

FOOD (AMENDMENT) BILL 1995

MR CONNOLLY (10.31): Mr Speaker, I present the Food (Amendment) Bill 1995, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR CONNOLLY: I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

This Bill implements a promise that I, on behalf of my party, made at the last election; but, regardless of party political promises or issues, it also raises very squarely for debate for all Australians a fundamental issue which has largely gone unreported and undiscussed in parliaments around Australia. An old adage that most of our mothers would have taught us as we were being encouraged to eat our vegetables or healthy foods is, “You are what you eat”. All of us are consumers of foodstuffs which come through a complex process of production and distribution.

In recent years new technologies have emerged which very fundamentally alter the nature of the food that we eat. One such technology is the process of food irradiation. Many critics of the nuclear industry would argue very strongly that the nuclear industry for 50 years has been desperately in search of a socially redeeming use of nuclear technology. Some 20 or 30 years ago elements of that industry came up with food irradiation as a socially beneficial use of nuclear technology; the theory being that by irradiating food you could kill micro-organisms that would otherwise naturally play a role in the natural decomposition of food.

This was promoted as having two benefits: One, the food that you eat would be healthier, because micro-organisms can be damaging and dangerous. The tragedy with the South Australian salami early this year demonstrates that the presence of certain micro-organisms in food can be very damaging to public health. Irradiation was also marketed as a significant benefit to producers because, as well as the harmful micro-organisms in food, there are natural micro-organisms in food that play a part in the ordinary process of decay of food. An apple picked from the tree today and left in our fruit basket will, in two or three weeks’ time, be totally inedible; it rots. One of the reasons it rots is the presence of naturally occurring micro-organisms. It is argued by the proponents of food irradiation that, by radiating that apple, you can significantly prolong its shelf life; and you can.


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