Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3323 ..
Debate resumed from 2 September 1998, on motion by Ms Tucker:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (10.43): Mr Speaker, the Food (Amendment) Bill 1998 was presented to the Assembly on 2 September this year. It inserts a provision into the Food Act requiring that irradiated or genetically modified food sold in the ACT be labelled to that effect. It is a slightly modified version of the Bill which was presented to the Legislative Assembly by former MLA Terry Connolly.
There are a number of issues that come out of this Bill that I think are particularly important. The first issue is that the intention of the Bill is well founded, and I think we should recognise it as being a positive intention. Unfortunately, the Government will be opposing the legislation, for a series of reasons. Most importantly, the Bill will not be able to deliver what it hopes to deliver. There are a number of reasons for that.
The first issue is the Mutual Recognition Act. Advice from the Government Solicitor's Office is that the Mutual Recognition Act 1992 would provide a defence for persons engaged in the sale of irradiated or genetically altered food which has been brought into the Territory from another participating jurisdiction which did not comply with this Bill. Therefore, the only food that would need to be labelled in accordance with the provisions of the Bill would be the food that was actually produced in the ACT. As you know, there is very little food produced in the ACT. The term "labelling of goods" in the Mutual Recognition Act 1992 includes any means by which, at point of sale, information is attached to goods or is displayed in relation to goods without being attached to them.
The second issue is the Commonwealth, State and Territory agreement in relation to the adoption of uniform food standards. I think this is an area that is much more important. The Australia New Zealand Food Authority advises that the Food (Amendment) Bill 1998 appears to breach the ACT's obligations under the 1991 Uniform Food Agreement. When I go through this material I want members to think about what position we would be in if, say, the Northern Territory were taking a radical stance on food which we would find horrific. Would we feel that they should comply with Australian agreements, or should they take a specific stance on their own if, for example, they were to take the opposite view to this and they felt that there was no need to label anything?
A food standard is defined in the Australia New Zealand Food Authority Act as a standard that has been adopted by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council under the Act, or a standard that is included in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. The Act details a range of matters that may be included in standards or variations to standards, such as
(a) the composition of food, including (i) the maximum amounts of contaminants or residues that may be present in food; (ii) its microbiological status and safety; and (iii) the method of sampling and testing the food to determine its composition;