Dissenting report – Ms Kelly O’Dwyer MP, Mr Bruce Billson MP, Mr Scott
Buchholz MP, Mr Tony Smith MP, Liberal Party of Australia
As Opposition Members, we observe that Government members on
the Committee have recommended that that House not pass the Food Standards
Amendment (Truth in Labelling-Palm Oil) Bill 2010.
Government members are now echoing the revised position of
the Executive, following a remarkable ‘about face’ by the Government after Government
Senators allowed the passage of the amended Bill and transmission to the House.
The Government's previous constructive and collaborative
approach was abruptly ended by the 23 August declaration that the Government
would no longer support the passage of the amended Bill.
With the amended Bill not opposed by either the Government
or Opposition in the Senate, it was open to
the House to believe that the Government was inclined to facilitate progress of
The Senate inquiry report into
the original Bill and evidence before this Committee on the amended Bill
highlighted the various intergovernmental and multi-jurisdictional processes
and arrangements through which the provisions would need to be progressed for
the Bill’s enactment and enforcement.
On the basis of the position adopted by the Government in
the Senate and overtures to the Opposition about working cooperatively to
canvass possible alternative approaches to
achieving the amended Bill's objectives, Opposition Members pursued the
examination of the Bill in good faith.
Opposition Members have been keen to draw out possible and
potentially more certain avenues to efficiently and effectively deliver
information to consumers about palm oil in products they were considering
A number of constructive proposals were provided in
evidence about transitional arrangements, encouragement of voluntary
initiatives, reducing possible implementation costs, and alignment
opportunities with current labelling and consumer information requirements.
There is little value in evaluating these proposals as possible
amendments to the Bill given the Government's revised posture.
The major shift in the Government's position to now abandon
any willingness to constructively engage in the advancement of the amended
Bill's provisions and to work to cooperatively overcome legitimate areas of
concern has undermined any prospect of its successful and effective
It is clear to Opposition Members that without Government
sponsorship and supporting advocacy by Ministers in the relevant and complex
intergovernmental fora, there is no prospect of bringing the amended Bill's provisions into operation.
The Committee has not received
any evidence that points to a clear and certain way parliament alone can
satisfy the procedural pre-conditions and Commonwealth obligations within
intergovernmental arrangements the Bill’s provisions seek to operate within.
Opposition members are particularly concerned about
trade-related considerations raised in evidence to the Committee.
While this aspect was briefly touched upon in the Senate
inquiry report, evidence presented to the Committee has highlighted Australia's
trade obligations as a legitimate area of public policy concern. Evidence to
the Committee highlights a number of trade-related risks and Sections 2.47 to
2.60 (inclusive) of the Committee’s report addresses some of these issues.
Opposition members recognise that it may well be arguable that
the Bill offends World Trade Organization rules by indirectly advancing the
interests of local vegetable oil production that may substitute for palm oil
imports, and may invoke potentially harmful retaliatory action and lengthy
dispute resolution processes.
It is clear to Opposition members that the trading partner
consultations required to accompany proposals for regulatory change under the
1995 food regulation treaty with New Zealand and more broadly in relevant international
fora of the kind proposed by the Bill have not been undertaken.
Again, in order to satisfy essential and desirable
trade-related obligations that are pre-conditions for the passage of the Bill
in compliance with international commitments, Government engagement and
advocacy is required that it is now simply unwilling to provide.
In their recommendation, government members are seeking to
rely upon the yet-to-be-agreed response of the Australian and New Zealand Food
Regulation Ministerial Council to the Report, Labelling Logic: Review of
Food Labelling Law and Policy, to address the policy objective of providing
consumer information about the presence of palm oil in products they may
The Ministerial Council is scheduled to meet on 9 December
2011 to consider its response to the Labelling Logic report
recommendations, including a specific recommendation (No. 12) that addresses
the specific listing of palm oil as a separate ingredient where it is an ‘added
fat’ to a food product.
Opposition members support the Ministerial Council giving
serious consideration to recommendation 12 of the report and keenly await the
agreed response and timetable for action arising from the Labelling Logic
Only time will prove whether the faith Government Members
are placing in the actual response and course of action agreed to by the
Ministerial Council is well placed, and if the ambition of the Bill in seeking
to provide consumer information about the
presence of palm oil in products being considered for purchase is fulfilled.
In this light, Opposition members make the following
House of Representatives not proceed with the Food Standards Amendment (Truth
in Labelling-Palm Oil) Bill 2010 at this time because the legislation requires
active sponsorship and positive facilitation that the Government is now
unwilling to provide despite not opposing the amended Bill in the Senate.
House should note that the Government now asserts that it has an alternative
and superior approach to addressing palm oil labelling already under
“On 9 December 2011 the Australian and New Zealand
Food Regulation Ministerial Council will consider a whole-of-government
response to the Report, Labelling Logic: Review of Food Labelling Law and
Recommendation 12 of this reports
- That where sugars, fats or
vegetable oils are added as separate ingredients in a food, the terms ‘added
sugars’ and ‘added fats’ and/or ‘added vegetable oils’ be used in the
ingredient list as the generic term, followed by a bracketed list (e.g., added
sugars (fructose, glucose syrup, honey), added fats (palm oil, milk fat) or
added vegetable oils (sunflower oil, palm oil)).
committee supports the Ministerial Council giving serious consideration to
recommendation 12 of the Labelling Logic: Review of Food Labelling Law and
House defer further consideration of the Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling-Palm
Oil) Bill 2010 until after the Australian and New Zealand Food Regulation
Ministerial Council has determined its response to the Labelling Logic:
Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy report and the extent to which
the response addresses the objectives of the Bill.
Ms Kelly O’Dwyer, MP
Bruce Billson, MP
Mr Scott Buchholz, MP
Tony Smith, MP