Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3328 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
I think that Ms Tucker, in introducing this Bill, is simply saying, "If we cannot develop a national scheme, if the other States and Territories will not accept that consumers have a right to know what they are ingesting, then we in the ACT will find a way through on our own, as undesirable and as inefficient as that process may be". Minister, that is the message that I would like to give you, acknowledging that the Labor Party would not support this Bill to finality today, but would support it certainly in principle, and would wish you to understand that those are our views.
MS TUCKER (11.03), in reply: I am pleased that the Labor Party is supporting this Bill in principle. It was certainly my intention that it would just go to the in-principle stage today, because I do recognise some of the issues that are complicating the right of the ACT, as an individual legislature, to actually make a statement on this. I would like Mr Rugendyke to listen to this, actually, if you do not mind, because there are a few important things that I need to say. Members like Mr Osborne, Mr Rugendyke and Mr Kaine need to listen as well.
This Bill is not just about in-principle agreement on labelling, as Mr Stanhope said. Of course, that is part of it. But what this Bill is also about is how strongly we believe that labelling needs to be integrated into any agreement on food labelling and how strong we are on the labelling position. What Mr Moore's paper will describe and what is well understood is that there is not international agreement at all on the standard of labelling that is applied to these sorts of foods.
The Australian position, I am sorry to say, is looking like becoming quite weak. It is tending to go towards the United States model. This Bill that is presented today - which was, as members have said, Mr Connolly's Bill originally - requires a strong level of labelling. This Bill is not just a statement about the requirement to label foods for consumers; it is also about how rigorously we label these foods and how strongly we are committed to full information for consumers.
It is interesting that, in the international discussion, the Europeans are taking a stronger stance than the United States. The Swiss are actually taking a stronger stance again. This piece of legislation today would probably be closer to the Swiss model than anything else, although not quite the same. The Swiss model maybe is not even as strong as this. I know that the Japanese people are certainly becoming very concerned about this issue. So there is an international debate raging. I am really concerned to see Australia going with the United States, which has not a particularly good reputation on these issues, I have to say. So, if this Assembly does pass in principle this particular piece of legislation, it is an important statement from a particular region of Australia.
I reject Mr Moore's assertion that it is going to undermine his position in terms of his negotiations. I do find it interesting that Mr Moore has taken this position, because, when he was not a Health Minister and he voted on this, he did support Mr Connolly's Bill in principle. It was the same sort of process. Knowing full well, as we do, the complications regarding uniform food standards and so on, Mr Moore did support that at that time. He said: