Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2248 ..
MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (11.13), in reply: Mr Speaker, the facts are that I share Ms Tucker's disappointment. That is the reality. When the legislation passed through this Assembly, I supported it. As Mr Humphries said, I have argued strongly in favour of this legislation. To illustrate that I have vigorously supported it, I will just explain to Mr Stanhope and others the sorts of methods I used to do that. In the initial instance, when the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council was meeting I had dinner with other Ministers who had these responsibilities. I raised the issue with them. I argued the case with them on an informal basis. I went through that lobbying process.
I also set up a system and asked for modification of the agenda at the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council so that we could deal with the issue of in-principle labelling of food. A series of principles were adopted because of the work that had been done in my office in the Department of Health here and because of the work that I had done. They were not just about egg labelling. They were also about labelling genetically modified food. I wanted to ensure that we had the principles in place in the initial instance.
I should also point out, Mr Speaker, that I was concerned also about appropriate labelling of citrus fruit covered in polyethylene. It seems to me that when we had the principles set up we should also have been able to get agreement from the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council on the labelling of citrus fruit covered with polyethylene. Polyethylene, by the way, is best known to most people as gladwrap. It is, in other words, a plastic. As far as I am concerned, we should be describing citrus fruit wrapped in polyethylene as plasticised or plastic coated. That would be a fair, plain English description. Instead, the food council agreed that plastic-coated food could be described as waxed. It seems to me that a normal understanding of "waxed" would be that it referred to something that can be washed off with warm water. If you now see fruit with a label on it that says "waxed", and you are going to use it for your lemon souffle or your marmalade, be aware that you may also be eating small amounts of plastic. The decision probably does not have great health ramifications, but I think it is important to understand the principle that we should be labelling appropriately. That was the argument I put very strongly at the food council. I argued first and foremost that we should have good, accurate descriptions on labels. There was a divided vote, as I recall, on that particular issue.
When we got to genetically modified food, the food council was divided fifty-fifty and therefore the debate was put off until our next meeting, which is likely to be held in mid-December, although a final date has not been set. I am conscious that Ms Tucker has tabled legislation about genetically modified food. Therefore, I am happy to talk to members about the best way to advocate that matter in the food council.
By the way, I specifically put the motion that supported the ACT position. As Mr Humphries correctly points out, the ACT was the only jurisdiction that supported it. There is not just a challenge for me to continue lobbying vigorously as I have been doing. I would say to Mr Stanhope and members of the Labor Party that there are now three Labor jurisdictions in Australia - New South Wales, Tasmania and Queensland - that may well have different views. Certainly, I would encourage