Page 4100 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 16 Sept 2009

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MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Minister for Transport, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Heritage) (5.10): The government will be opposing this clause. Ms Le Couteur’s bill seeks to insert a new section 9A into the Animal Welfare Act to create an offence of confining a hen in a cage system, effectively banning battery egg production in the ACT. The ban would come into force on 1 January 2011. Ms Le Couteur, I understand, has just indicated that she would propose to amend her bill now to change 2011 to 2015.

The sole commercial egg producer in the ACT is Pace Farm at Macgregor. Pace Farm is also a major producer of eggs in New South Wales. Pace advises that the facility at McGregor also serves as its egg grading, its cold storage, its packaging and its distribution centre for the entire southern New South Wales. Pace Farm has previously indicated it would close its ACT business in Macgregor. The Greens have indicated in the debate today that they do not believe that Pace is serious when it says that. I believe it is serious, should a ban be introduced in the ACT. However, it would, of course, continue to produce eggs from caged hens from its facilities in New South Wales, and the closest facility to Canberra, I believe, is Young.

That is why in my discussion in the debate on this issue I assumed that any caged hens here in the ACT, if that facility was closed, would move to Young. Other egg farms would continue to operate around the country, just as they are now, resulting in no overall improvement to the condition or welfare of caged hens nationally.

I understand that the Macgregor facility is unsuitable for free-range egg production. The advice I have received is that the site is not appropriate, not large enough, and that free-range egg production would never be pursued on that site. A barn-laid system is the most likely alternative production option for Pace Farm at Macgregor. It is in that sense that this government has offered $1 million to Pace to convert the Macgregor facility to barn production, and that offer was dismissed out of hand.

In the context of the assumptions particularly that the Greens have made in relation to the likely attitude of Pace to a ban on cage production, and the comfort which the Greens take in their position that Pace are not being serious, that they would not close it, I reject that completely. From my discussions with Pace, if cage egg production is banned in the ACT they would close that facility immediately. The government has offered them $1 million. There is $1 million on the table available to Pace Farm to convert Parkwood to barn production. Pace Farm rejected the offer out of hand—did not even debate it or discuss it; simply said, “No, it is not nearly enough.” I said, “What would you need? What would catch your interest?” They said, “Millions more than that.”

I think you need to understand some of the commercial realities and some of the context. I am advised, and I am advised by my officials, that free-range production could not be pursued at Parkwood on that rural lease. You need to understand, in relation to the decisions that Parkwood may or may not take in this game of Russian roulette, that you are prepared to take 56 jobs. Your bland assertion—

Ms Bresnan interjecting—

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