House debates

Tuesday, 27 October 2020


Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Consumer Law — Country of Origin Representations) Bill 2020; Second Reading

4:23 pm

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Adelaide, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to give my speech in continuation. As I was saying earlier, the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Consumer Law—Country of Origin Representations) Bill 2020 and the amendment that has been moved by the member for Burt are very important, because what the current legislation had was that they wanted bar codes on there which would show every little ingredient in the pharmaceutical goods or the vitamins or whatever the pharmaceutical company was producing to actually show where it had come from, in order to get their certification as being Australian manufactured. As I said earlier, and as the member for Burt said, in some cases you have to source the product from overseas. It doesn't exist here. It doesn't actually grow here or it's not made here or whatever. It would be a pity if, because of this one small ingredient or something that would be impossible to source here in Australia, some of these industries wouldn't get the certification that is required.

We know that people, consumers, like to know where their products have come from, where they have been made and where they have been manufactured. In this case, the majority of the manufacturing or the putting together of ingredients is done here in Australia, and they do it very well. In fact, as we heard, the industry employs over 30,000 people and it is a $5 billion industry. Why would we jeopardise it? Why would we have legislation that goes way too far and that perhaps is a motivator for these companies to go offshore and decide they might as well produce their whole product offshore?

As I said, an example would perhaps be Arnott's Biscuits, which are in my electorate, and I mentioned them earlier, who produce Tim Tams. They are made in my electorate, in Marleston. They are Australian made. They employ over 200 people at the Marleston factory. It is an iconic product that all Australians know. It is exported all around the world, including to the US and Europe. There is one particular ingredient that they cannot source here in Australia and that is the product that makes chocolate—cacao. It is just impossible to source here. They can only get it from Africa. It was explained to me when I did a tour of that factory. Wouldn't it be a pity to take away that iconic branding that they have that they are made in Australia because they cannot source a particular small ingredient?

It is the same with this particular industry. In fact, Blackmores submitted to the inquiry that was taking place on country-of-origin labelling from the beginning that the proposed changes would damage this thriving Australian industry and hurt Australian jobs. They also said that they believed that the regulations and amendments that have already been introduced should be maintained, which is a good thing, with no further action or information statement required. That's because complementary medicines are not foods. They are basically therapeutic medicines. So companies like Blackmores and many others value-add to the research and development. They are advanced manufacturers and they are employing people here in this country putting their products together and selling them here in Australia.

There are many, many examples. For example, another iconic industry in my electorate is Rossi Boots. They are Australian made. They are one of the last bootmakers left in Australia. They source most of their products from Australia, but there is a particular product that they cannot source here and that is the ingredient that makes the colouring to colour the boots and other products that they make. They have been selling a brand which is iconic for over 100 years in my electorate. Wouldn't it be a pity to take away from them that brand which is so celebrated, that we still have a bootmaker that produces boots? It would be far cheaper for them to go offshore and produce them somewhere else around the world if they couldn't say they were Australian made because they sourced a particular product overseas that goes into the colouring which they cannot source here. There are many, many other examples. RM Williams is another one we heard about last week. Twiggy Forrest has just bought the company, keeping it in Australian hands. It's a good, iconic product that is sold here in Australia.

As I said, the Australian public demand to know what is in their products. They want to know if it is Australian made and they want to know where it has come from. In this case, these products are manufactured here. Most of the ingredients are sourced here in Australia. But when they cannot source a particular ingredient I think we should be lenient with those industries. Here's a classic example where the industry would be hurt if this barcoding continues and they can't get that specification.

You can go on forever about Australian made products. Another area in Australia is service. We could perhaps in the future look at service industries actually having a brand or a logo that says something like, 'This particular bank that you are doing business with is not offshoring work overseas for call centres and settlement of properties et cetera; it's all being done here in Australia.' I think the Australian public should have the right to know that. At the point of signing a particular contract for a service industry, the consumer should be told that there is a chance, or a likelihood, that their information will be going overseas. It is in the fine print in the contract but it's too small and too detailed for people to notice it or look into it. If we had a logo for the service industry—like an Australian Made logo—I reckon you'd find that we would be able to create more jobs here. It'd be an incentive for some of these industries to keep their services here in Australia instead of offshoring and going overseas. And the examples go on and on. Informative labelling telling people where a product is from, where it was manufactured, is extremely important. In this case, we want to keep the pharmaceutical companies that are producing many of these products here in Australia. It's a great industry. It's worth $5 billion and over 30,000 jobs, and we don't want to jeopardise it. And they are doing the right thing. They are manufacturing here in Australia, and that's very important.

4:31 pm

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank all members who have contributed to this debate. The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Australian Consumer Law—Country of Origin Representations) Bill 2020 will make an important range of amendments to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The amendment lays the foundation for Australian made complementary medicines to have robust access to a safe harbour Australian origin claim and access to the 'Australian Made, Australian Grown' logo—the iconic kangaroo in a triangle symbol. The Australian Made claim will help to create the right conditions for Australian manufacturing to continue to grow. This in turn will support the complementary medicine sector's exports, which were valued at over $1 billion last year. This industry is a significant Australian manufacturing success story and supports the employment of around 29,000 people.

We know that businesses are always concerned that, when regulation is introduced, the compliance can be onerous. Regulations made under the changes we are introducing, though, will only apply to those businesses that choose to rely on the test in the new regulation to make an Australian origin claim. If an Australian business does not want to make an Australian origin claim under these reforms—that is, these changes to the act and the creation of a new regulation and information standard—it will not face any additional regulatory burden. Such a business, therefore, will not be required to comply with any currently proposed new labelling requirements.

The bill therefore strikes the right balance between encouraging domestic sales and exports while maintaining consumer confidence in the transparency of Australian origin claims and in the value of the widely recognised 'Australian Made, Australian Grown' logo. I thank members for their contribution to the debate on this very important bill.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.