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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2249 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

Labor members to lobby their colleagues in Tasmania and Queensland to assist in this labelling area, particularly the labelling of genetically modified food, to make sure we get fair, plain English labelling. My understanding - and I would be happy to be corrected on this - is that the Labor Party has a national policy on that issue, but I will leave that for you to double-check.

I would also urge colleagues on the crossbenches to lobby their counterparts in other States to make sure that we get a sensible approach to the labelling at the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council. It seems to me, though, Mr Speaker, that there is a broader issue that we have to consider. Do we want to have consistent food labelling across Australia or not? Are we part of a process that decides, through the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council, that we are going to get a consistent way of dealing with food in Australia? Certainly, governments over the last decade or so have decided that that is the most appropriate way to go. I believe it is the most appropriate thing to do. Even when we lose our particular view, I think the majority view should still carry the day and that we ought not then to have legislation within the ACT that is inconsistent with a national decision. Sometimes it is very difficult to make those decisions when we as a parliament see things differently. Sometimes, I suppose, there will be issues of such high order principle that we will say that we are going to separate ourselves, and that would be a position that I would then be bound to take to the council. We have some important food issues to deal with in the next little while.

I would say just one other thing. Although I share Ms Tucker's disappointment, had it been my intention to undermine or to go in a different direction, then this legislation would not be to defer for a year; this legislation would be to remove that part of the Act. I believe, from both a consumer point of view and a public health point of view, that consumers are entitled to know what it is they are purchasing. I think that is the fundamental issue in this case. Whether it is plastic-coated citrus fruit, whether it is eggs or whether it is genetically modified food, consumers should be able to make their decisions. It is not good enough for a ministerial council or others to say, "There is no harm in this. We are sure there is no harm, because that is the scientific evidence at the moment. Therefore, we do not have to tell people what is in it". I think they are entitled to know, and some people will make a risk assessment and decide that they do not want to take that kind of risk. The vast majority of us will say, "It is plastic-coated citrus fruit. I peel it anyway. Who cares?". But at least people are entitled to know. That is the approach we have taken and that is the approach that this Government will continue to take - to make sure that people are aware of their rights and that as consumers and from a public health perspective their rights are protected.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

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