March 10, Question Time.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:47): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing questions to the Minister for Correctional Services, representing the Minister for Consumer and Business Services, with regard to whether he will 'give a cluck' for true free-range eggs.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: South Australian consumers are currently getting ripped off.
Choice estimates that last year at least 213 million eggs nationwide were sold as free range that did not meet basic consumer expectations of free range, yet there is no national standard for free-range eggs in Australia.
This could all change. Federal, state and territory consumer ministers are in the process of developing a national standard, setting clear rules for which eggs can claim to be free range and which can't. We want to make sure that that standard is the real deal—simple to understand and meets consumer expectations. There's currently extreme pressures from big egg producers with big budgets to create a definition that suits their business model, one where consumers keep paying the free range premium price without knowing what they're buying.
Large companies that are selling free-range eggs that don't meet consumer expectations will fight a lower definition stocking density of 1,500 every step of the way, and they seem to have the ear of some in the federal government. As well as ripping off consumers, large-scale producers who call their eggs free range are crowding out the genuine free range farmers, and their livelihoods are on the line.
That is why Choice is running the Give a Cluck campaign and seeking political support. Imagine the dismay of not only Choice Australia but of course those true free range providers to hear the words of federal agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce, as reported in the Fairfax press on 3 March, and I quote:
Mr Joyce said he and Ms O'Dwyer— that is, minister O'Dwyer— had resolved the egg labelling issue between them and the upcoming meeting with the States would be the final tickoff point—but he didn't want to upset that process by announcing [prior to that meeting].
My questions are:
Will the minister indicate that he and this state government will indeed 'give a cluck' for true free-range eggs and support the 1,500 stocking density, as is currently held and supported by the state's voluntary scheme?
Can the minister confirm that this meeting will not simply give, as minister Barnaby Joyce hopes, a tick-off to the big end of town, but indeed will this minister for South Australia stand up for true free rangers and be ticked off and go it alone if that definition of 1,500 is not agreed on at that national meeting?
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) (14:50): I thank the Hon. Tammy Franks for her important question. I am more than happy to refer the question to the responsible minister in the other place and make sure that we get an appropriate and accurate response.