Food policy agendas swamp Federal Parliament

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th August 2011

The Australian Parliament is facing a proliferation of inquiries by legislative committees to investigate numerous separate food industry issues.

Here is a list of the issues currently being scrutinized by Australian politicians in Canberra.

(1) Federal Inquiry into food processing

A Federal Senate inquiry, to be undertaken by a committee known as the Senate Select Committee on Australia’s Food Processing Sector, will investigate pressures facing the Australian food processing industry.

A key issue is whether Australian food manufacturing is competitive in international markets in the face of challenges that include the strong Australian dollar, and questions over levels of investment capital, skilled labour, necessary infrastructure, and the ongoing challenges presented by the Australian climate. The inquiry will also investigate the impact of anti-dumping laws and international anti-free trade measures. The committee will report to the Senate by 30 June 2012. The committee is currently inviting submissions, due by 3 October 2011.

(2) Palm-oil labelling inquiry in Federal Parliament

The identification of palm oil on food labels is being considered in a Federal Parliamentary Committee inquiry by the House of Representatives. The House Economics Committee has commenced its inquiry into the Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling – Palm Oil) Bill 2011 that would, if passed, require makers or distributors of foods with palm oil as an ingredient, to specify the oil as ‘palm oil’. A public hearing will be held on 26 August 2011. Public submissions closed on Monday 15 August 2011.

(3) Farm Gate Pricing Bill tabled to Federal Parliament

A private member’s Bill tabled this week to Federal Parliament would, if passed, require Australia’s major supermarkets to reveal what percentage of the retail price of their fresh produce goes to the farmers. The Farm Gate Pricing Bill, drafted by Independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon and House of Representatives Queensland Independent Bob Katter, would need the support of a major party, in order to be passed.

(4) Federal Government’s “National Food Plan”

In June 2011, the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) released an “Issues Paper to Inform Development of a National Food Plan”, in line with the Labor Government’s pre-election promise of developing a National Food Plan (NFP). The plan will focus on issues such as food security, food quality, the affordability of food and the sustainability of food. Public submissions were due by 5 August 2011.