Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2520 ..
MS CARNELL (Chief Minister): Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a ministerial statement on battery hens legislation.
MS CARNELL: Members will recall that in September 1997 the Assembly passed amendments to the Animal Welfare Act 1992 and the Food Act 1992. The effect of these amendments was to prohibit in the ACT the sale and production of eggs using battery cage systems. However, the amendment to the Animal Welfare Act contained a commencement provision that the ban on the keeping of battery hens, and the sale of eggs from battery hens, would not come into effect until six years after the permanent exemptions schedule to the Commonwealth's Mutual Recognition Act 1992 had been amended. This change to the Mutual Recognition Act would prevent the sale in the ACT of battery hen eggs produced in other States.
I would like to detail for members the active approach taken by the Government in progressing the legislation passed by the Assembly. In doing this, I will highlight a number of issues that emerged as a result of the legislation.
The ACT is a party to the Australian Mutual Recognition Agreement which has been put into effect by the Commonwealth's Mutual Recognition Act of 1992. The ACT signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on Mutual Recognition in May 1992 and became a 'participating jurisdiction' in December 1992 when the Assembly passed the Mutual Recognition (Australian Capital Territory) Act 1992. The basis of the mutual recognition scheme is simple. Goods that can be sold in one jurisdiction may be sold in any other jurisdiction. Therefore, without an exemption, the Mutual Recognition Act would allow for sale in the ACT eggs laid by battery hens in other jurisdictions even if the sale of eggs laid by battery hens in the ACT is banned.
Mr Speaker, the ACT Government and the ACT Legislative Assembly, including the Labor Opposition, have supported the aim of mutual recognition to remove regulatory barriers to the free flow of goods and labour between Australian states and territories. The alternative, which existed prior to 1992, would require the six states and two territories to maintain different regulatory standards. It would also require people such as plumbers, electricians and nurses to be registered under separate legislation in each jurisdiction. That is, to practise as a plumber in Queanbeyan, an ACT plumber would have to register to possibly different standards in New South Wales.
In establishing mutual recognition, governments did, however, recognise that individual jurisdictions may wish to seek permanent exemptions to the general principle for issues of particular significance, for example, firearms and fireworks, on the grounds of public health and safety. But, to avoid multiple exemptions and to maintain the principle, it was determined that changes to the permanent exemption schedule to the Mutual