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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 2145 ..


MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (10.54): Mr Speaker, I present the Food (Amendment) Bill (No. 2) 1998, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR MOORE: I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, in September 1997 this Assembly passed two Bills presented by Ms Horodny relating to the production and sale of eggs produced from hens in battery cage circumstances. The provisions relating to the production of eggs have yet to come into force, but the provision relating to the sale of eggs - section 24B - came into force on 20 September 1998, last Sunday.

However, in February this year the chair of the Australia New Zealand Food Authority, in correspondence with the Chief Minister, advised that the labelling requirement in the new section 24B would be in breach of the 1991 National Agreement on Uniform Food Standards. The Australia New Zealand Food Authority, ANZFA, advised that there were two options to resolve the breach: Either the Territory should repeal the provisions, or a new national standard should be introduced.

Mr Speaker, the Government has worked towards implementing the will of this Assembly by following the latter course. At a recent meeting of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council, which is the ministerial council with authority over national food standards, I tabled a proposal for the adoption of a national standard of egg packaging. This proposal was not agreed to by ANZFSC on the basis that, as it is not a public health issue or a consumer deception issue, it is not appropriate to regulate this matter in the Food Standards Code.

There is a further legal issue, in that the amendments may be in breach of the Territory's obligations under the Commonwealth Mutual Recognition Act. The Commonwealth Productivity Commission is currently undertaking a public benefit test on the 1997 amendment Act, and the report is expected to be finalised by the end of October 1998.

In any event, even if the provisions are to have effect, there will be a need for regulations to be made. The Government is currently preparing the labelling regulations in consultation with relevant stakeholders. The labelling expressions will be based on the ACT Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry.

While the regulations are being finalised and the national agreement issues are being worked through, the Government takes the view that the implementation of the new provision should be deferred. This Bill which I present today would have the effect of delaying the commencement of section 24B of the Food Act by up to a year, although I will, as Minister, be empowered to gazette an earlier commencement date if that becomes appropriate.

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