Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2245 ..
MR OSBORNE: Mr Speaker, I must let the Assembly know that the reason why this report was not tabled while we were away was that our legal adviser was on leave for three weeks. It is an unfortunate situation that we have here today, but normally the reports would be circulated. I do agree that there are some very significant issues raised for domestic violence and, Mr Speaker, I think it only sensible that we give the Opposition and other members time to look at the report. I do apologise. Our legal adviser was away, but the report normally is circulated well before the day on which it is to be debated.
Debate resumed from 24 September 1998, on motion by Mr Moore:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MS TUCKER (11.02): I am disappointed with this Bill, because it delays part of a significant reform to the way we treat farm animals. Just over a year ago this Assembly passed the first legislation of its type in Australia to ban the production and sale in the ACT of eggs from hens kept in battery cage conditions. This was done because of the considerable concern in the community that the battery cage system is inherently cruel to hens.
The other, less publicised side of that legislation is that it introduced a requirement that egg cartons be labelled with a conspicuous label that indicates by means of a prescribed expression the conditions under which the hens that produced the eggs are kept, that is, whether it was a battery cage, aviary, barn or free-range system. The purpose of the labelling was to make consumers more aware of what types of eggs they were buying and to encourage them to steer away from battery cage eggs, particularly during the six-year phase-in period for the outright ban on the battery cage system.
The Greens knew that there were difficult implementation issues that had to be dealt with, particularly how to address the egg producers who import eggs into the ACT from other States, but we thought it was important that we pursue this legislation even if other States did not agree with it. We recognised that there were national agreements relating to the sale of food, but the Greens have always believed that if we are to get any national reforms then one State or Territory has to take the lead to make changes; otherwise, we will just end up with the lowest common denominator standards.
I am therefore concerned that the ACT Government has chosen not to take action until a national agreement can be reached regarding the labelling of egg cartons. I am also disappointed that the Government seems to have acted very slowly on this issue. It had a whole year to sort out the implementation of the labelling, yet we had this Bill being tabled a week after the original amendments came into effect. I cannot see why labelling of egg cartons is such a hard issue. We have labelling on a whole range of products. Labelling of products to give relevant information to customers is regarded as a standard consumer right. Why should eggs be any different? Why do governments and the egg industry not want consumers to know the conditions under which the hens that produce our eggs are kept?