Member for Fairfax, Ted O’Brien has used the Sunshine Coast’s fresh produce and food industry to highlight the vital affect new food labelling laws would have for local producers during a speech on the Competition and Consumer Amendment Bill 2016 in Parliament today.
Otherwise known as the Country of Origin Bill, it will ensure produce from local Australian food producers can be easily identified on supermarket shelves.
Mr O’Brien consulted widely on the content of the Bill with the Sunshine Coast’s food and agricultural sectors. He set up public information booths at the Yandina and Fisherman’s Road markets and hosted a series of round tables with coast and hinterland growers.
“It was at these round tables where the most meaningful contributions were made due to intellectual giants of the Sunshine Coast food industry like Julie Shelton and innovators such as Tania Hubbard,” Mr O’Brien told the House.
Director of the Real Food Festival Julie Shelton said new labelling laws were needed to sustain a quality food and agri-business in Australia.
“My main excitement for producers and consumers is around the transparency issue. It will be really clear where the food is coming from and what’s more exciting is that this provides a platform for regional place of origin labelling too,” Ms Shelton said.
During his speech, Mr O’Brien also explained the role local strawberry growers had taken in shaping the Country of Origin Bill being debated this week.
“You may not be aware Mr Speaker but the greater Sunshine Coast region accounts for at least 80 per cent of Queensland’s strawberry crop which equates to 50 million punnets of strawberries and employs up to 8000 pickers each season,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Strawberry grower Di West raised a concern that the business she runs with her sister Jodi risked losing tens of thousands of dollars worth of plastic punnets stored in their warehouse unless the transition period was extended.
“This led to significant consultations between them, the Minister, his office, myself and other growers such as the famous Twist Brothers of Chevallum,” he said.
Mrs West is hoping the legislation can pass through both Houses sooner than later.
“As we end this season we have stock ready for next year which is really important,” Mrs West said.
“We’ve been waiting for this legislation to order punnets with the new labels for the following season.”
The proposed labels include an easy to interpret bar graph which shows where the content originated and more specifically what percentage is Australian. It also includes the iconic image of a kangaroo.