Question Without Notice: Egg Production Standards

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — My question is to the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation, and I refer to the reforms agreed to by the Victorian government at the recent Council of Australian Governments meeting of consumer affairs ministers regarding free-range egg standards. Given that the CSIRO model code for free-range eggs has a limit of 1,500 chickens per hectare, why does the government believe that eggs laid by hens stocked at 10,000 hens per hectare, with no guaranteed access to the outside, should be classified as free range?

Ms GARRETT (Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation) — I thank the honourable member for his cracking question to follow on from the outstanding press releases that were put out on behalf of my colleague the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, who attended that meeting on my behalf, and I greatly appreciate that. What a meeting it was. There were jokes abounding. Importantly, this is a major reform and a step towards protecting animals from exploitation. These are the clearest guidelines that have existed in this free-range industry ever across the nation. It was an agreement that was reached right across the jurisdictions. It has the support of many key stakeholders. The Greens in the ACT, I am advised, did support the moves that were made, so perhaps the Victorian Greens should speak to their colleagues.

Mr Hibbins — On a point of order, Speaker, the minister is actually misrepresenting the position of the ACT Greens. The Greens have made public statements opposing these —

— Honourable members interjecting.

The SPEAKER — Order! The Chair is unable to hear the member for Prahran. The member for Prahran is entitled to silence when making a point of order. The Chair must be able to hear the member in order to adjudicate. The member will start again.

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — On a point of order, Speaker, in her answer the minister is actually misrepresenting the position of the ACT Greens and the ACT Greens minister, who has made public statements in support of stronger standards of 1,500 chickens per hectare. If the minister agrees with those standards, then she should make a statement.

The SPEAKER — Order! The Chair does not uphold the point of order.

Ms GARRETT — As I was saying, what an important meeting. Many things were discussed at that meeting. Again, the consumer affairs ministers are making great strides in protecting the community in this area. We are proud of that decision. Yes, there is always more work to do, but we are really delighted that for the first time nationally we are taking a stand. We are giving consumers clear information and a choice about how they purchase and what eggs they purchase, and once again it was primarily those jurisdictions that stood up — Victoria and New South Wales. They also listened to the concerns of the producers. It is a multibillion-dollar industry, and therefore I wholly endorse what occurred at that ministerial council.

Supplementary question 

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I refer to a media release put out by the minister’s office on 12 June 2015 entitled, ‘Ministers get cracking on egg labelling standards’, with a quote from the minister for consumer affairs: Many Victorians choose to buy free-range eggs because they want to support ethical industries and we want consumers to have confidence they are getting what they paid for. Given that many consumers who buy free-range eggs will not be getting what they paid for, I ask: why has the minister gone soft on free-range egg standards?

Mr Eren — Surely that’s a yolk!

Ms GARRETT (Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation) — The Minister for Sport indicated ‘Surely that’s a yolk!’, and I would say once again to the member for Prahran that that is another sterling question and another feather in his cap. Of all the questions he could ask, he has chosen this one. Again, consumers will be able to get a clear read on the way in which the chickens that have laid those eggs are roaming and the sort of hectares they are roaming in. This is a sensible, common-sense outcome that protects a really important industry but takes really important steps forward in protecting consumers. I hope in his next question the member actually starts talking about things that matter to his electorate.