Infant Formula Sales

Infant Formula Sales

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:04:37): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the minister representing the Minister for Business Services and Consumers on the topic of infant formula sales.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: As members would be aware, pictures on social media in recent weeks show entire supermarket trolleys laden with boxes of formula, and empty shelves where that infant formula would normally be available have understandably angered and concerned many parents in our state who are reliant on formula to feed, or supplement the feeding of, their infants. The minister would no doubt be aware that after a number of deadly formula scares in China, fearful parents in China are turning to baby formula products sourced from Australia.

Meanwhile, a cursory glance at the baby formula products available from South Australian sellers on eBay and marketed with item descriptions, for example, in both English and Mandarin, show that there are some in our state who sadly see this as an opportunity to make a quick profit at the expense of the basic food supply and security of their fellow South Australians. Fearful parents in China are now creating fearful parents in Australia.

As a result, I welcome and commend supermarkets such as Coles and Woolworths that have imposed tighter buying bans on baby formula amid this shortage blamed on Chinese consumers. Last week, Coles was limiting customers to four tins each and Woolworths to eight. This week, those restrictions are further tightened, with Coles now only allowing two tins per customer and Woolworths four. I note that you can still buy multiples across the brands in one transaction or, of course, a consumer can go in and make multiple purchases even of those restricted amounts.

Having experienced, as I am sure many mums have, a child who was a fussy eater and would only drink one brand of formula, I can imagine that this can be enormously difficult for many families in our state with very young children, and indeed those families across the nation.

I note also that in previous debates in this place, and through the federal parliamentary inquiry into ticket scalping, evidence has shown that sites such as eBay are willing to restrict the onselling of tickets if a jurisdiction, state or federal, has relevant legislation. Further, I observed that eBay does have restrictions for many items, used cloth nappies being one. Any items which contravene eBay policies are easily reported and removed by the site.

My question to the minister is: has her office or her department turned their thoughts to assisting the local retailers who are now admirably restricting the number of sales of formula tins in their shops, and of course supporting desperate local parents fearful that they may literally run out of the food to feed their infants with urgent state restrictions on online sales by third-party or onsellers of infant formula?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) (15:07:40): As honourable members will be aware, the minister has been granted a pair to head off to the airport to catch a flight, so on her behalf I will take the honourable member's question on notice and take it to the relevant minister in another place and bring back a response.

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