Australian Federal politicians debating the merits of Senator Nick Xenophon’s Palm Oil Bill, seem to be overlooking a potential breach of the Australia New Zealand Food Treaty, says Katherine Rich, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council.
“If cutting across the Council of Australian Governments’ extensive Food Labelling Review process was not concerning enough, Senator Xenophon’s Bill fails to take into account the joint regulatory system shared by Australia and New Zealand.
“Should the Bill become law it will likely breach the Australia New Zealand Food Treaty, which says that Australia shall not introduce any amendments to food law “without effective consultation with New Zealand during their development”.
“It will be interesting to hear what consultation with New Zealand officials there has been during the development of this proposed legislation. We’d like to be optimistic, but we suspect there has been none.
“The whole aim of the Food Treaty is to make sure both countries don’t make ad hoc changes to food labelling requirements without following a proper joint process.
“Both countries have appreciated that without clear processes food labelling is especially vulnerable to regular political interference by those using labelling as a battleground for every political issue du jour.
“The trans-Tasman Food Treaty also states that legislators will make “best endeavours" to reflect New Zealand's position in relevant Government papers and "to reach agreement with New Zealand on these, and any other, amendments to the Australian legislation”.
“While it’s a surprise that the Bill was passed by the Senate after being given the thumbs down by the Senate committee, it’s more of a surprise that the Bill was supported by the Federal Coalition. Perhaps we Kiwis are more traditional, but in New Zealand conservative parties usually fight for less business ‘red tape’ and regulation, not more.
“We strongly support the comments of Kate Carnell, CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council that the Palm Oil Bill will compromise food labelling in Australia and will increase the cost of groceries for Australian families. Kiwi families will also bear the brunt of these price increases, and sadly these extra costs will do nothing to preserve Southeast Asian natural habitats, Mrs Rich said.