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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3442 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

The debate about battery caged hens and battery egg production is a very difficult one in Australia. We have seen recalcitrance from many people on both sides of the debate to shift their ground. Recently, however, there have been some encouraging moves. We have seen the new Labor Tasmanian Minister for Primary Industries highlighting that his State is now prepared to move towards an eventual phase-out of battery cage production. Hopefully, my colleague in the new Victorian Labor Government will be doing likewise. We will have to wait and see.

Because we are seeing these shifts, I would prefer to see this issue continue to evolve, rather than try to put a more draconian requirement in relation to labelling. Mr Moore's arguments on the positioning of the label and the practical difficulties on the egg producer and in processing the carton through a checkout are legitimate. I am not comfortable with the notion of making a decision in the debate today that will require the producer to purchase a new machine.

That may, or may not, be an accurate statement from the producer. We all know that producers can tend to exaggerate the impact of regulatory requirements. But we have to, on this occasion, accept it at face value. We have to make an on-balance decision.

What has swayed me and my colleagues is that someone may not see the label when they purchase it. But when they take it home; take the carton out of the fridge or shopping bag, they are almost certainly going to see that it says, "battery egg". They are going to know what they purchased was a battery egg, an egg produced in a cage system.

That is an important element of consumer education. They would then have the opportunity to decide whether or not to continue to purchase battery eggs, or whether to seek alternative products - eggs not produced in the battery cage system. I admit it is not the optimum solution. But it is a step in the right direction. The labelling may not be in the most prominent location, but it is not hidden. It is quite clearly stated.

On balance, the Labor Opposition will not be able to support Ms Tucker's proposal. The amendment to sub-regulation 5(1) to omit the words "or proceeded" I do not think is necessary when you look at how Bartter are labelling their eggs. They are labelling it in a logical way, "battery cage". It is pretty clear what the egg is. You know it is a battery cage egg. What else could it be? So I do not think we need to worry about the wording "or proceeded".

In relation to changing subregulation 5(1) substituting "egg" with "eggs", I do not see why we need to be going through the whole amendment simply to deal with that small editorial change, which is really neither here nor there.

Finally, the new subregulation: I went earlier through the arguments about that. We have to achieve a labelling regime which is reasonable in terms of providing consumer information, and practical in terms of safe handling of the product during the purchase process.

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