Clarence Valley Independent

Fishy labelling dispute

Geoff Helisma |

The NSW opposition has “slammed the Berejiklian Government, in particular regional MPs representing coastal communities,” regarding its lack of support for a private member’s bill to compel “food outlets to display on their menus whether the seafood on offer was sourced from Australia or overseas”.

However, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis says NSW Labor’s bill was too “simplistic” to gain the government’s support.

“The Food Amendment (Seafood Country of Origin Labelling) Bill 2017 would have required restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs to display whether the seafood on offer was imported or caught in Australia,” two Labor media releases stated.

On the day (February 21) the bill was voted down 46 to 35, Labor’s Member for The Entrance David Mehan said in NSW Parliament that “the bill deals only with the source; sources that are either Australian or imported. It could not be simpler”.

However, Mr Gulaptis said that is precisely why it was rejected.

“It is more complex than the bill Labor put up, it was a poorly constructed bill; it wasn’t comprehensive,” he said.
“If we could have amended it we would have, but it wasn’t sensible and it wasn’t practical – there has to be consensus right across the country.”

In its media releases, Labor referred to an announcement by then NSW Government deputy leader Troy Grant in May 2016, promising labelling to “make sure that all customers have the knowledge to choose our top-quality NSW products over cheaper, imported fish”.

Labor also said it had “consulted the food retail industry as well as local fishing industry, which strongly supported the bill”; whereas Mr Gulaptis said the industry consultation was ineffective and that “there were question marks raised by industry representatives about it”.

He said his government “has already got an enquiry into country of origin labelling in place”.
“We are proposing to introduce legislation, we’ll trial it first, but we are in the process of liaising with other states to ensure that there is a national approach to country of origin labelling,” he said.
“We are also liaising with industry.
“The fact is [Labor] had no penalties in place, and so [the bill] didn’t have teeth.
“Our enquiry is across the entire food chain to make sure we do cover every base.”

On this issue, Labor argued in the Legislative Assembly that the government’s current policy was adequate on that front, citing the Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) policy on compliance, which advocates “voluntary compliance through a range of educational activities which aims to build a capacity within industry to play an informed and active role in complying with food safety and biosecurity matters”.

In his speech, Mr Meehan quoted the following from the DPI’s policy: “It has been identified that the most effective way to gain and maintain voluntary compliance is by building a relationship of trust between DPI Biosecurity & Food Safety, the community and industry.

“This relies on the premise that if regulated businesses are treated as trustworthy, they will repay this by: voluntarily complying with their obligations; being truthful and cooperative in their dealings; and, meeting their requirements as and when they fall due.”

Clarence Fishermen’s Co-operative’s general manager, Danielle Adams, said she was disappointed the bill “did not go through”, but “Chris has reassured us that the Coalition is coming up with something better and brighter”.

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