Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3326 ..
MR MOORE (continuing):
Whilst I understand the motivation behind this legislation, I think a much more important principle is to have a consistent approach on food across Australia. Therefore, this Bill should not be supported because, in practice, the only foods that would need to be labelled in accordance with the provisions would be those that are produced in the ACT anyway; the manufacture or sale of irradiated foods is currently illegal in Australia; the Bill is inconsistent with existing labelling requirements in the national Food Standards Code; and the Bill is premature, as standards relating to irradiated and genetically modified foods have not been completed. I would like to assure members that I will continue to pursue very actively the appropriate labelling of food in the appropriate national forum. It is something that I am prepared to do very vigorously. Indeed, I indicated to members that I have already done so on a number of issues.
Mr Speaker, I would just like to add one other thing. I understand that part of the motivation for Ms Tucker bringing this legislation on today was effectively to assist the Government in its representation to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council by saying that the Assembly has this particular position. I think, if anything, that will actually undermine my position as a Minister at that Food Standards Council in this particular case. Having already taken an Assembly position on eggs to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council, I have to say that, although I argued vigorously in favour of the legislation, I was outvoted. In fact, mine was the only vote in favour of it.
I think that, in some ways, having this sort of legislation which clearly flies in the face of what the council is trying to achieve in getting a cooperative approach, a collaborative approach, is not useful. I think the more effective way to proceed with this is to have this debate adjourned before we reach the vote on agreement in principle and then for me to continue to consult with members and to take an agreed position of this Assembly to the Food Standards Council and to see what we can do to persuade other members that the European position - if that is, indeed, the view of members - is the sensible way to go.
I would suggest that, in doing that, it may be appropriate for members and their specific parties to also lobby the other Ministers who will be at that council. I will add at this point, Mr Speaker, for members of the Labor Party in particular, that I have already lobbied the Labor members of the ministerial council on this particular issue. Although the intention of this legislation is positive and we understand what it is about, I think it is an inappropriate way to go about what we are trying to achieve.
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (10.57): Mr Speaker, the position that the Labor Party will take on this legislation is very similar to that which Mr Moore has just proposed and outlined. We are very happy to have this Bill debated today to the in-principle stage, but I think it would be the Labor Party's preferred position at this stage to have the matter adjourned perhaps before an in-principle vote, for the reasons that the Minister has outlined.
I note that, as the Minister has just indicated, the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council is meeting in just a week or so and that it will be discussing these issues. Minister, you have said, and I think it is a point well made, that it is valuable for this Assembly to give some indication of its thinking on this very important issue. It is useful for us actually to have this discussion to achieve that end.