Senate Committee calls for alternative to Greens’ Country of Origin Bill

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 8th April 2013

The Senate Committee for Rural and Regional Affairs has released its recommendations from an inquiry into amendments proposed by the Greens to current Country of Origin Labelling laws.

Although introduced by Greens Senator Christine Milne in 2012, the proposed Bill has been rejected by the Committee on which she serves, saying that the Bill, as currently drafted, should not be passed.

Instead, the Committee has said the Government should consider developing a more effective country of origin labelling framework which better balances the interests of consumers, primary producers and manufacturers. The development of a public education campaign for new country of origin labelling guidelines has also been recommended.

The Senate Committee report has confirmed concerns about the insufficient nature of ‘substantially transformed’ for founding a country of origin claim. Under current legislation, products are ‘substantially transformed’ in a country when they ‘undergo a fundamental change in that country in form, appearance or nature such that the goods existing after the change are new and different goods from those existing before the change’.

The Committee noted several submissions which had highlighted that some goods may be legally labelled as ‘made in Australia’ notwithstanding the total presence of substantially transformed imported ingredients. The Senate Committee therefore recommended that Government should consider creating a ‘negative list’ for processes that do not satisfy the ‘substantial transformation’ test.

Members of the committee included: Senator Glenn Sterle (WA ALP) Senator the Hon. Bill Heffernan (NSW LP) Senator Alex Gallacher (SA ALP) Senator Fiona Nash (NSW NATS) Senator Rachel Siewert (WA Greens) Senator the Hon. Lin Thorp (TAS ALP) Senator Christine Milne (TAS Greens) and Senator Richard Colbeck (TAS LP).

The Bill had been criticised by the Australian Food and Grocery Council in February 2013. The AFGC had expressed views that the Bill was “likely to mislead consumers”, “negatively impact export opportunities”, and would “threaten 300,000 Australian jobs”.