Page 4111 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 16 Sept 2009

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As I indicated in the debate in principle, the government believes that Ms Le Couteur’s message on the signs could be misleading, and in the ACT context we believe that it would be. Not all caged hens are kept in cages smaller than A4 sheets of paper. The government proposes wording that focuses on the production methods for each type of egg but will not result in overly large signs. We see this approach as part of a larger process to educate the community about egg production.

This is not just something that the Assembly is legislating for in isolation. Lobby groups are also educating the community, awareness is growing and the government-proposed signs should be seen as working in with the growing awareness of the issue. The signs should be quite clearly for reminding consumers.

The government’s proposed signs are drawn from the description in the model code of practice for the welfare of animals for domestic poultry. The amendments set out the wording for cage eggs, barn-laid eggs and free-range eggs. The government also agrees that there should be a suitable visual means of distinguishing cage eggs from other types of eggs where they are being sold. The government considers that the red border proposed in the Greens’ bill could be vague in some situations. What will the border be made of? How will it be fixed to the shelving units? How will smaller shops or retail outlets displaying only a couple of cartons of eggs comply?

Instead of a red border, the government’s amendment would require that the visible edge of the shelving carrying cage eggs should be red. However, to ensure that this does not impact on small shops, the government proposes that the red edge requirement should apply only to retailers displaying eggs on more than two linear metres of shelving. All the shelving carrying eggs—not just cage eggs—is to be taken into account in working out whether the retailer has to comply with the requirement.

MS LE COUTEUR (Molonglo) (5.54): The Greens will be supporting this amendment but I do note that we were first given it this morning. Given that the legislation was introduced as an exposure draft many months ago, I think it would have been useful, as I am sure Mrs Dunne would agree, if we had had this amendment a lot earlier.

The government’s amendment changes how the retail signage works. Clearly we saw some advantages with our original ideas, but we certainly think that it is very important that consumers have better information than they have at present. We know that 83 per cent of people say that they would like to not buy cage eggs and we know that the proportion of people who buy cage eggs is not consistent with what people say they will do.

Mr Hanson: When they get to the reality of the price.

MS LE COUTEUR: Some of this is price driven, but some of it is also confusion driven. I will not bother repeating what I said in my earlier speech, but as a consumer it is very easy to be confused about what type of egg you actually are buying. So this is a very important part of the legislation.

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