Christine Milne and Adam Bandt held a joint press conference to talk about the Country of Origin Food Labelling legislation, and answer questions on other issues of the day.
Subjects: Country of Origin Food Labelling Bill, genetic modification, farm gate prices, polls, super trawler, marriage equality, Tony Abbott, ASIC
CHRISTINE MILNE: It's clear to me that Australian consumers really want to know about the food that they're eating, they want to know where it's grown, how it's grown and they want to be able to support Australian farmers. For a long time consumers have been saying we want to know where the food is grown. They pick up a packet of bacon for example and they would assume that the bacon was actually grown in Australia but it's highly likely that it wasn't because under the current labelling arrangements you can have 'Made in Australia' or 'Australian Made' when in fact the actual food item was grown overseas and brought here and just transformed by a processing style or technique in Australia. That needs to stop. This was recommended by the Blewett Review and the Australian Government has not taken up the recommendations.
When I took over the leadership I said I wanted to have a renewed conversation with rural and regional Australia and keeping farmers on the land is absolutely critical. If we want to be able to buy Australian food, food grown in this country, then consumers need to be able to recognise it and buy it in the shops. With the current Government food plan it's pretty clear the focus is on making sure that there is enough accessible food at a cheap price for Australians to consume. Where it's actually grown though is not part of the Government's agenda. Well it's very clearly part of the Greens' agenda and that is why we are bringing into the Parliament Country of Origin Food Labelling. Country of origin so that when you pick up a packet of bacon or a packet of glace cherries you will know straight away whether the cherries or the pig were actually raised or grown in Australia. I think that's what consumers want to see. It will be good for the bush and good for the city and Adam's just introduced it into the Reps, and I'll be introducing it into the Senate this afternoon.
ADAM BANDT: I am thrilled to have introduced a bill into the House of Representatives that's going to benefit Australian farmers and also stop the misleading of Australian consumers. People in cities like Melbourne would be pretty surprised to know that if they bought a pack of bacon from the supermarket that said 'Made in Australia' that the meat might actually come from overseas. Increasingly people who live in cities like Melbourne want to know where their food is coming from, they want to support Australian farmers and they want to minimise the number of carbon miles on their grocery bills, and the only that you can do that is with clear labelling that stops misleading people. So I'm really pleased that we've introduce a bill that will put a new standard on Australian food that will say made of Australian ingredients so that you will know when you buy it that you are supporting local producers and supporting them in meeting pretty high standards that we have here in Australia that isn't necessarily the case in other countries so I am hopeful now that the other parties will look at this especially those parties that say they represent farmers and all get behind it.
JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to the other parties about this before you put it in?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Certainly, the Greens have been speaking about this for a long time, we introduced the Country of Origin Labelling legislation some years and it went to a Senate inquiry where both the Coalition and the Government rejected the legislation. Since then we've have had the Blewett Review. The Greens have certainly been out there talking with farmers' groups and community groups and the community really wants country of origin food labelling and it's going to be very interested to see when it goes to committee whether the major parties have now changed their minds. With the NBN coming there's a great opportunity for urban consumers to be able to talk directly and buy directly from producers of food. Country of origin labelling which says 'made of Australian ingredients' so that consumers know that 90 per cent of the product is actually grown in Australia, will make a big difference. We'll also be keeping the mandatory labelling of grown in Australia for fresh vegetables and meat so at least now if we can get this through the Federal Parliament then we will be helping to keep Australian farmers on the land and making sure Australian consumers are able to support farmers but also have high confidence in the nutritional value of the food to keep them healthy and also to make sure that how that food has been produced has been in an ethical and sustainable way.
JOURNALIST: Are you considering any policy changes as a result of your listening tour of regional Australia as yet perhaps something like GM for example where the people out in the bush support the technology as a way forward for cropping?
CHRISTINE MILNE: It's been terrific to go out into the bush and talk to people about a whole range of issues, there are social issues like provision of education services and health services and Penny Wright is now engaged in a consultation with rural and regional Australia on the adequacy of mental health provision for example, I've certainly talked to farmers about how to keep farmers on the land and there's a really, although different circumstances, growing things in different places and so on different commodities, the issues tend to be the same and that is the farm gate price. Overwhelmingly farmers are saying until we can get a decent farm gate price for our product we're not going to be able to keep farmers on the land, that's the issue that we are most concerned with, that's why the Greens are taking up a lot of these issues, we've been on them for a long time but I'm reinforced in the view, as to GM, no we're not going to change our minds on genetically modified organisms in food chains and I think when the community comes to realise that there are real health issues associated with GMOs, not to mention organic growers actually being put out of business by the fact that there is contamination of organic certified areas as a result of GM trials, that's going to make people even more frustrated.
JOURNALIST: Are the health concerns proven though? The scientific community has come out in outrage at some of the misleading statements that have been made, making false or misleading claims about the actual health value of this technology.
CHRISTINE MILNE: GMO is under the microscope in all sorts of ways and they change on a regular basis in terms of what people are trying to put together in a GMO product. What I can say though is the contamination issues are real, I've just been in Western Australia where I met with an organic grower who has now had his certification destroyed because of contamination from a GMO crop which has blown onto his properly, that will end up in the courts, and what Australian growers need to realise is that the, all the responsibility and all the costs are now on the non-GMO farmers who have to clean up after the contamination from the GMO risks.
JOURNALIST: My question was have the health claims been proven though.
CHRISTINE MILNE: The health issues change regularly as the types of technology that are being experimented with also change and you only have to go and look at the literature to see that there are extensive and expansive claims on all sides.
JOURNALIST: What do you think is behind the improvement behind the Government's and the Greens' improvement in polling numbers today?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Well polls come and go and the Greens are out there on our issues and particular very pleased that we've been able to stall the super trawler, we want to make sure that we stop the super trawler and in fact any other super trawlers, because we want to maintain Australian fish stocks and to that end on the science there is now a new report showing that if the quota that had been allowed persists, you could see a collapse of the fishery and that is because the science that the Australian fisheries management authorities used wasn't the right calibration of the science. So out there on the issues, out there today on marriage equality as well we know that the community really wants to end the discrimination on marriage equality as well, we're sick of seeing both the Coalition and the Government trying to hold back what is clearly an issue of discrimination in Australia. I think also Tony Abbott is increasingly being exposed as having no policy positions. He hoped to drive the Government to an early election, he hoped to destroy the whole move in addressing global warming with carbon pricing and he failed and as he has failed he now can't answer the question as to where the $70 billion hole in his costings are going to come from and as a result people are saying look he's all fluoro vest and not much else. We need some answers from Tony Abbott as to where the money is going to come from and what we're seeing is actually a bit of an awareness of that, if you look at Campbell Newman, if you look at Barry O'Farrell, look at Ted Baillieu and you're seeing cuts to the public service right across the country. I've just been in Brisbane where there is shock, about 14,000 public servants being sacked, 4000 of those from in particular the health area, and everybody knows that if you are not going to raise the money then you are going to make cuts across the economy and sadly the Government can't escape from this either. We've seen today ASIC out there saying that they are struggling to be able to do the proper monitoring of the financial institutions, the whole range of banks and insurance services, hedge funds and the like, now Australians do not want to see this continual race to the bottom in saying we're not going to raise money and then just blaming each other as to where the money is coming from. The Greens are saying we have to raise the money because we want to maintain health and education services and certainly after the global financial crisis people in Australia would like to think that ASIC was well enough resourced to make sure that we don't get any really big problems across our financial management system.