Federal Government opposes Palm Oil Labelling Bill

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 25th August 2011

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has applauded the decision by the Federal Government to oppose the Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling Palm Oil) Bill 2011. The AFGC is now urging the Coalition to follow suit.

Tabled into the Australian Parliament as a Private Member’s Bill by Independent senator Nick Xenophon, the legislation was rejected by a Senate Committee in July, but passed by the Australian Federal Senate through an alliance between independent senator Nick Xenophon, the Greens and the Coalition. The Bill is now before a Federal Parliamentary Committee inquiry in the House of Representatives.

The AFGC has warned a House of Representatives Economics Committee that the Bill will put Australian manufacturing and export operations at “high-risk” and add substantial extra costs.

Yesterday, AFGC chief executive Kate Carnell said the palm oil labelling Bill would cost the Australian food manufacturing industry A$150 million and “would not save any orang-utans”.

“It’s hard to understand why the Coalition would support a Bill that’s so contrary to business – it’s simply not the right time to introduce significant new cost pressures and regulatory burdens on industry when the sector is already under significant pressures,” Ms Carnell said.

“Industry’s challenges include high labour prices, less flexibility on wages, higher energy power prices, high transport costs, growth in private label brands and near-record high global commodity prices for sugar, diary, cocoa and wheat and the high Australian dollar making imports cheaper.”

Federal Government opposes the Bill

The Federal Government has opposed the Bill on the following grounds:

First of all, that the Bill will be of significant cost to the Australian food industry (estimated at up to A$150 million) at a time when manufacturers are “struggling due to increasing costs and the high Australian dollar”.

Secondly, that the Bill contravenes World Trade Organization requirements for food labelling adversely impacting industrial trade.

Thirdly, “Australia only uses 0.3 per cent of the world’s palm oil and the majority of Australian manufacturers have already committed to using palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).”

Fourthly, that the Bill does not promote health benefits as levels of saturated fats are already listed on the food product labels.

Fifthly, the Bill circumvents established national labelling practices and the Blewett Labelling Review.

Submissions have been made to Australian Parliament from major players in Australia’s food retail industry. These included submissions against the Bill from the Australian Food and Grocery Council, as referred to.