FOOD AMENDMENT (SEAFOOD COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELLING) BILL 2019 - Second Reading Debate
Updated: Apr 4
It seems like every day we hear from this Government about a lot of good intentions, but not a lot of outcomes. I want to respond to a few issues that the Minister raised, firstly, that if we tell people where our seafood comes from, it might make them less inclined to eat seafood and they might instead turn to chicken or lamb or beef. I do not see the logic in that, because they would be turning away from imported seafood, which does not help anyone in our primary industries sector or support our farmers and local fishers. I do not think there is logic in that.
I heard the Minister's comments about wanting a national approach, and it was good of him to list all the States in case we missed them, but on every other issue where there is an option for New South Wales to be number one we hear the Government proudly crowing about model legislation and the things that it wants to do to improve everything for everyone in New South Wales, and "We will be leaders in Australia".
Given the disastrous reforms that have been made to the commercial fishing sector over the last four or five years, trying to support that sector should be number one. I go around the State, up and down the coast, talking to fishers. I have done that as shadow Minister for Primary Industries, and previously as shadow Minister for Small Business.
It is very disheartening to walk into takeaways and seafood shops and see "We love local seafood" collateral that has been produced in Queensland. New South Wales fishers and fishmongers are using that in their own premises because they want to promote Australian seafood. That is the level of ridiculousness we have here.
We need the Government to be consistent, and I know that the Government has not been consistent on much of this debate around primary industries over the last couple of weeks. I am sure I heard the Minister talking about the proper labelling of milk and other products recently, so that we were clear that milk is the mammary secretion of an animal and we did not want almond milk to be called milk; we wanted to call it nut juice or almond water or something else.
On the one hand, the Minister wants to put up his hand and say that he is supporting the dairy industry, but he does not want to support the fishers. It is inconsistent, and it is what we are used to.
I also wonder about the issue of signage. I used to own a café and conference centre, and we used to sell fish from time to time. We also had a restaurant. I have to say that there was no issue because, if you have a species or type of fish that is subject to availability, it is not always in stock or you cannot always get it, you can use a chalkboard, as the Minister himself said.
The point is that you can change a chalkboard every day—in fact you can change it twice a day or three times a shift if you need to. We had our restaurant about 18 years ago, and we were in a country area, so we had to wait for the guy to come and do our menus, but there is something that has become much more accepted in business over the last 20 years, and that is a computer, and desktop publishing.
A lot of restaurants are doing their own menus, and a lot of restaurants are promoting the provenance of their food. We hear about New England lamb and that sort of thing, about where the animals are harvested from; yet, with seafood, we are not making it a similar issue. If restaurants and cafes want to promote higher prices for their products, they should be explaining to consumers why the prices are higher. We know that under the reforms undertaken by this Government, the price of seafood has increased substantially.
When I was a tour operator 20 years ago, I remember being up in the Gulf of Queensland. We visited the barramundi farm near Lorne Hill and our group was eating at a particular restaurant. The menu said it was barramundi and I remember a particularly lovely lady, Betty—she was probably about 83—said, "That's not bloody barramundi! That's Nile perch."
We could not say yes or no, because there was nothing to indicate whether it was—just what the restaurant menu said. We do need to be clear because even about 20 years ago consumers wanted to know that they were supporting Australian seafood. They wanted to know that they were supporting local industries.
The other thing about this Minister that I cannot quite come to grips with is that he talks about his good intentions. A ministerial media release from his predecessor, dated 30 May 2016, stated:
Seafood lovers will be able to read on the menu where the seafood they order is sourced from, under a NSW Government proposal for a new labelling scheme aimed at promoting local seafood consumption.
I suppose we do not have Niall Blair anymore and we do not have Troy Grant as Deputy Premier anymore, but these were good ideas.
The Opposition agreed with and supported them. The Government did not come up with the legislation, so in 2017 the member for The Entrance—very proactively and on his own initiative—drafted the bill. But the Government could not support it.
I think the reason it gave at the time was that there were no penalty units. What happened then? Unlike the Government, which when it puts something in legislation that is not achieving its purpose, it tries to ram it through with its numbers and ends up like the Right to Farm Bill, stuck in the other House with pages and pages of amendments—