Food Labelling

In Parliament, Matters of Interest, Speeches

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:43): On 14 September, the Nationals announced their intent to lobby the federal government—of which that party is a junior member—to ban the terms ‘milk’, ‘meat’ and ‘seafood’ from being used for alternative and plant-based products such as, for example, soy milk, almond milk, so-called ‘fake meat’ or indeed ‘faux fish’. Under existing rules, when the term ‘milk’ is used on its own, it is inferred to mean cow’s milk. If the milk is from another species or another source, it is labelled with an additional descriptor; for example, goat’s milk, soy milk or rice milk. 

It is unclear what the Nationals are actually trying the achieve here. Ostensibly, it is something to do with supporting farmers or avoiding confusion, but they seem to have got themselves as worked up as Chidi Anagonye of The Good Place when deciding whether or not the almond milk should go in the coffee or whether that is the worst possible choice he could make. It is as if the Nationals have not realised that farmers and producers do not produce almonds or grain in the country, and it makes one wonder, when they do their supermarket shop or their farmers’ market produce shop, how consumers will navigate this typical normal task, given the names of the many other products that could surely be considered similarly misleading. 

Exhibit A: peanut butter. The Dairy Board in our history in this state lobbied for that to be referred to as peanut paste, yet here we are today, 2019, with peanut butter on the shelves. 

The Hon. I.K. Hunter: It’s always been peanut paste. 

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I grew up in New South Wales—it was always peanut butter. Coconut milk, coconut cream, heads of cabbage—sure, they are cabbage, but why have they got heads? Beefsteak tomatoes: what is in a beefsteak tomato? Butternut pumpkins: there is butter, there are nuts, there are pumpkins! Hamburgers, but not a bit of pork or ham to be seen! Surely, when one gets to the lady finger bananas, that is where it will all come undone! 

What about coconut butter, what about shea butter, what about moisturising cream? Should we go for the non-food aisles? What about the butterfly? Will it really hit this point of being quite ridiculous? I think this is ridiculous, and it is easy to have a bit of laugh, and I am here today to milk the folly of the Nationals because I think that when most of us hear this news—and the real reason I want to talk about this—we will be baffled as to how this is a priority for the National Party. 

I believe the joke here is on us when we have the pressing threats of climate change and drought plaguing our farming community, yet all they want to do is clamp down on the almond, soy and grain producers of our country regions. But, to rub salt into the wound—not to put butter on it—we have since heard the news that our former federal drought envoy, the illustrious Barnaby Joyce, would simply text in his drought reports to the then federal prime minister. 

I have been pondering whether those texts consisted of the words, ‘From a front bar, this drought is making me thirsty,’ as he travelled from front bar to front bar, costing taxpayers $675,000 to do so in expenses, spending less than three weeks on the ground in drought-affected communities outside his electorate, while our federal drought envoy. That is $675,000 for nine months on the job and an allocation of two staff members to conduct his work at an estimated cost of $200,000. 

According to the travel records he lodged with the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority, Barnaby Joyce made four short trips to drought-ravaged Queensland during the time he spent in this role—about a week spent on the ground. The first was for a daytrip to Longreach, Bedourie and St George, for which a private charter cost more than $15,000; the second, a chartered daytrip to Charleville for delivery of hay bales by the rapid relief team cost $5,600; the third, an overnight trip to Gympie, also by charter, cost $5,300; and the fourth, an overnight trip to Rockhampton in March 2019. Joyce made two trips to Tasmania—not a single trip to South Australia. I think the joke that is being played by the National Party here is on us.