Introduction and First Reading
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:39:22): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to regulate the display of eggs for sale by retail. Read a first time.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 17:40 :17 ): I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I bring today to this place a bill on an issue on which I have previously brought legislation and, indeed, something the government has also sought to address, that is, cracking the scam of free-range egg labels. Members will be well aware that when it says ‘free range’ on the carton, it does not necessarily mean that that egg is free range inside that carton.
Previously, the member for Finniss and I have attempted to introduce state-based legislation to ensure that if it says ‘free range’ on the carton then it is free range inside the carton. That bill of mine and the Greens, which was a corollary to the member for Finniss’s bill in the other place, passed the upper house but failed in the other place. The government brought forth a voluntary scheme, a code to enable true free-range producers to voluntarily use a logo and identify their product as free range through the use of that accredited state government logo.
I note that that scheme has still yet to be properly up and running and I also note that that scheme will impose further fees on what I would say are the true free-range producers doing the right thing and, in fact, having higher overheads in the first place, who are then going to have imposed another penalty for the privilege of having done the right thing.
When a consumer buys a free-range egg in this country they should be able to buy that free-range egg and they should be able to get what they pay for, and yet we know, according to Choice magazine’s recent report of June this year, that in fact 213 million eggs sold in Australia in the 2014 year under the free-range label failed to meet those consumer expectations.
The worst offenders included popular brands such as Pace Farm, Farm Pride, Manning Valley and of course the supermarket giants, Woolworths and Coles own brands. A consumer is left in the invidious position of attempting to do the right thing and paying a premium to try to do the right thing by animal welfare standards but not getting what they pay for, and the true free-range producers are not getting what they put in to doing the right thing by being able to reach that financial reward for their animal welfare standards.
This bill seeks to crack the problem in a very simple way, and it is a way that has worked in the ACT since 2001: rather than label the carton, we label the shelves. We label the shelves according to the Primary Industries Standing Committee Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, and I table the most recent edition of that code. That will make it easier for members to see the code I refer to in this piece of legislation. I refer members to appendix 2 of that code, where they are looking for the definitions contained within this bill.
The bill will simply define three particular categories that are within that code. They refer to cage eggs, barn eggs and free-range eggs. Those three categories are contained within this bill and they are a way forward to support free-range producers not only in this state but across our borders, alleviating constitutional barriers that have been presented previously in terms of ensuring that when we buy free range we are really buying free range.
I am open to amendments and suggestions from any member of this place, but certainly from government members, to address one of the emerging issues in the national debate which is those who are currently falling under the free-range label who have stocking densities not of the 1,500 per hectare amount that this state has endorsed and that the Greens endorse—and, in fact, is reflected by groups such as Humane Choice—but the 10,000 per hectare stocking density.
That category is of course at a higher animal welfare standard than is cage eggs, which I think are an abomination and should be banned altogether, but that is for another day, and, of course, they are a higher standard than is currently the barn category of eggs that this bill will seek to label. Perhaps there is space for a discussion on categories such as barnyard to be included as a fourth category, and that is certainly open for negotiation.
I would reject some bids from that part of the sector to have the true free-range producers label their produce ‘premium free range’, leaving the fake free range people to take over the free range niche market. That is unfair on those two free-range producers who have put in a lot of time and who are, by their very nature, the smaller players in this industry, and that true free range should be protected and supported.
The fourth potential category is something that is open for negotiation. With those few words, and with a minimum of puns, which are so appealing in this debate, I hope this simple solution will see us make a break through on this issue.
Debated adjourned on motion of Hon. T.J. Stephens.
Legislative Council Private Members Business
April 13, 2016
EGGS (DISPLAY FOR RETAIL SALE) BILL
Second Reading Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 23 September 2015.)
The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE (17:46): I note that the Hon. Tammy Franks has said that she intends to take this bill through today. I want to put on the public record that we have been working on this free-range egg issue for some time, like a lot of other colleagues. As recently as only about a week ago, ministers of all colours, Liberal, Labor (they are the two colours) and the federal minister as well, met and came up with a national agreement on free-range eggs. We have considered that, and we believe that there should be time now to let the dust settle to see what the outcome is in the next year or two as a result of the ministerial council meetings; therefore, we will not be supporting this bill.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) (17:47): I was not down to speak but, for the Hon. Robert Brokenshire's benefit, my understanding is that the Hon. Tammy Franks wished to bring it to a vote on the first sitting Wednesday in May (18 May), so I will not be making a contribution tonight but seek leave to conclude my remarks on the next Wednesday of sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.