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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 3077 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

The Labor Party recognises, as my colleague Mr Wood has pointed out, that there are national agreements in relation to the new Food Bill that govern exactly what can and cannot be included in that bill. These include the intergovernmental agreement on food regulation, and agreement on the food standard codes, and the model 2 provisions. These are all important provisions. They are an important step in achieving uniform national food safety laws. The Labor Party understands and respects the need to achieve that important policy outcome across Australia, so we accept that there is no ground within the existing Food Bill for amendments to be made to the bill to provide for the continued egg labelling laws that exist in our current Food Act.

The Labor Party has explored a number of options in this regard. As late as yesterday Labor was prepared to support the proposal that has just been put forward by Ms Tucker when she foreshadowed amendments to the Food Bill. However, since that time I have received further advice as to the appropriateness of that course of action. Now, unfortunately, Labor is not in a position to support those amendments because they still, according to the advice I have received, are contrary to the national agreement on uniformity of legislation that is required in relation to this bill.

So I foreshadow, Mr Speaker, that tomorrow I will be tabling a stand-alone piece of legislation which guarantees the continued existence of our existing egg labelling laws. On balance, we have decided that that is the most appropriate course of action. That being the case, the Labor Party will not be supporting the amendments that have been foreshadowed by Ms Tucker in the debate today.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (5.19), in reply: Thank you, members, for your contributions. A huge amount of work has been done on this legislation, both here in the ACT and also around Australia. It has been a matter of discussion amongst ministers, I think in every food ministers council that I have attended, and they have included New Zealand. We have had advice from New Zealand, although that country has not participated in this piece of legislation.

Mr Speaker, it is very important legislation because, by getting a national agreement on food, as was recognised in November 2000 by heads of government, we can proceed to deal with issues that arise in terms of food poisoning and the protection of people's health in a coordinated way.

Earlier this year the non-core component of the model food provision underwent an ACT specific regulation impact assessment. I think that is what Mr Hargreaves was referring to earlier. That assessment involved industry consultation and a comprehensive cost benefit analysis. Over 2000 ACT food businesses were contacted to encourage their participation in the consultative process. There was general consensus from the food businesses that uniform food regulations were essential for customer confidence, for professional opportunities and business investment. Those consulted were also supportive of the adoption of the national food safety standards which are intended to replace the ACT's existing food and hygiene regulations.

Mr Speaker, that is one small example of the extraordinary effort that has gone into this legislation. The national standards were approved by health ministers last year, and they deliver uniformity with respect to food hygiene and practices in food premises.

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