Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 2948 ..
MR HUMPHRIES: I challenge Mr Connolly, if he thinks it is not a breach, to write to other jurisdictions and ask them whether they would agree to this standard being applied in the ACT.
Mr Connolly: It is not a food standard.
MR HUMPHRIES: It is a food standard. It is a standard that applies to the sale, manufacture or labelling of the food. It is a food standard. I might be wrong. Mr Connolly, I invite you to prove me wrong by writing to the other jurisdictions which are fellow partners in this agreement - the agreement that your Chief Minister signed - and saying to them, "We are proposing to legislate in this way in the ACT. Do we have your agreement that this has not breached the national food standard of which you are a signatory?". If Mr Connolly comes back with letters saying, "Yes; it is not a breach of the food standards", then I guarantee to vote for the legislation. I think that my colleagues will as well. The challenge is in Mr Connolly's court. If the National Food Authority does not think that what he is proposing is consistent with the agreement and the other States and Territories do not think that it is consistent with the agreement, when will he acknowledge that his legislation is a breach of the agreement? That is my challenge to him.
I think that we are being very foolish by doing this. I am grateful that the Assembly is not passing this into law. It seems to acknowledge its own feeling that passing it into law today is not quite the right thing to do. By the same token, that is a dangerous path to go down. I would say to members that, if you want to treat national agreements like that, that is fine; we will set a standard that we can then all adopt in this place, which is that national agreements do not matter, that we can throw them out when we want to. That is a most unfortunate position to take.
MR CONNOLLY (11.10), in reply: At the outset I would like to thank our crossbench members for their support of this legislation. This is a significant debate, because this is the first time that the issue of genetically altered food products has been debated in an Australian parliament and the first time that parliamentarians have expressed a view on this matter. It is very encouraging that the view that parliamentarians in this place are expressing on this matter - and, I suspect, the view that parliamentarians in other places will express if it gets debated - is that we are not prepared to allow the public to be treated like mushrooms, as Mr Moore said; we are not prepared to allow these products onto our dinner tables without proper notification.
I would also like to congratulate Mr Humphries on a rousing speech in support of his leader, totally uncontaminated by any knowledge of, or interest in, the details of the issues of genetically engineered or irradiated foods. He was called on at short notice by Mrs Carnell to make a speech; and, like the good soldier that he is, he got into the trenches there and bored it up me for 10 minutes, without addressing any of the issues of genetically engineered or irradiated foods.
I must respond to Mrs Carnell's and Mr Humphries's principal attack, which is that this is a breach of the 1991 agreement. To start with, Mr Moore makes the point that parliaments are sovereign; that agreements that executive governments sign cannot bind parliaments; and that that has been widely demonstrated by parliaments around