Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 2940 ..
Mr Connolly: That was a bit of an embarrassment for you, Kate.
MRS CARNELL: No. You are the one who should be embarrassed here. Mr Connolly was saying that we could not possibly be leading the nation in this area and that the last thing that we could possibly do would be to get out there and lead the nation. He even went so far as to say that, under the National Drug Strategy, which was, he said, oversighted by Health and Justice Ministers from all States in Australia, it was absolutely essential to be in line with this group. He went on to say that he would not adopt "a slapdash, opportunistic, political stunting approach to this type of issue". I am quoting from Hansard of 1 December 1994. It appears now that in opposition Mr Connolly is willing not only to have a slapdash, opportunistic, political stunting approach to a piece of legislation but also to put the ACT at odds with an agreement signed by his leader. I find this whole situation absolutely amazing.
There is no doubt that we support the view of the National Food Authority; that is, that irradiated food should not be on the market in this country until we have proper guidelines and we are absolutely sure that the food is safe to consume and that all safety precautions are in place. That is exactly what the National Food Authority has done. There is a moratorium on all irradiated food until we come up with a guideline that will, again, be agreed by all players. On genetically engineered food, again the National Food Authority has in place and is putting together guidelines to ensure that there will be no risk. There is no indication whatsoever - in fact, not even a letter - by Mr Connolly to the National Food Authority to indicate that we can invoke the clause of this agreement between State leaders by suggesting that there is a danger to public health here.
By passing this legislation, even in principle, the ACT ends up way out there on its own. I do not know where that leaves us with regard to National Food Authority standards. I would hate a situation to occur where the ACT was not in line with labelling safety and all the other requirements that go with the NFA approach; but that appears to be what those opposite want. In the past, we have heard comments from Mr Connolly - we should call him Captain Sensible, I think - about these issues. The reality is that, in this case, we are doing everything in our power - as they did in government; it just seems that that has gone out the window now - to ensure that food available in the ACT is properly labelled, is safe and is in line with the agreement signed by the previous Chief Minister. We simply cannot pass this legislation if we plan to be in line with national standards.
MS HORODNY (10.46): The Greens will be supporting this Bill because we believe that it is a fundamental right of consumers to know what they consume, including how it is being treated. This is a basic consumer right, not something that can or should be compromised. We understand that the National Food Authority is currently developing standards for irradiated food - and I am pleased to hear that - but that does not alter the motivation for this legislation. No matter what the standard is, it should include a requirement to label food accordingly. Mr Connolly's Bill does not limit the amount of information that must be provided; it merely provides that, at a minimum, consumers must be informed.