Deputy pm makes a sham of national egg Labelling consultation
Humane Society International (HSI) was delighted when the Federal Government agreed to develop a National Information Standard for free range eggs last year, with the objective being “to enhance consumer confidence and certainty around egg labelling”. A number of stakeholders, including HSI, were invited to individual meetings and Treasury received almost 10,000 comments, either as a formal submission, an email, or lodged via their website, following the public consultation last November. The consultation is now in its final stages, and the new definition for ‘free range’ eggs is anticipated to be revealed at the end of this month.
Late last week media reports published comments reportedly made by Deputy Prime Minister Hon Barnaby Joyce which revealed that he and his colleagues had already made the call on the egg labelling issue prior to the conclusion of the Consultation – such a revelation would make the entire Consultation process nothing more than a sham. The comments appeared in last Friday’s Stock and Land in an article titled ‘Keogh rejects “ridiculous” ACCC claims’ by Colin Bettles, and read:
‘Mr Joyce said he and Ms O’Dwyer had resolved the egg labelling issue between them and the upcoming meeting with the States would be the final tick-off point – but he didn’t want to upset that process, by announcing anything beforehand.
“I’m basically as happy as I think I could be and have gone as far as I think we’re going to get on the issue,” he said.
“And in talking to egg producers they’re pretty well on side with where we are now.”’
HSI has written to Deputy Prime Minister Joyce to establish whether these comments are true and whether a dirty political deal has been done. If true, such statements are highly alarming because many organisations and thousands of consumers have invested heavily in this process. This issue affects free range egg consumers across Australia as well as the livelihoods of hundreds of true free range farmers, so it is critical for this Consultation to be fair, taking on board the comments made directly by the people affected.
Unfortunately the demand for free range eggs has driven opportunistic action by those controlling the industry at the expense of smaller businesses. HSI’s most recent National consumer survey showed that more than 98% expect ‘free range’ hens to be stocked at no more than 1,500 birds per hectare, and over 98% felt that allowing as many as 10,000 hens per hectare for eggs labelled ‘free range’ would not meet their expectations. Many stated they were horrified this could be classed ‘free range’.
HSI Director Ms Verna Simpson said, “We have estimated that Australian consumers overpaid around $375 million last year on false credence claims. This deception has to stop and we have high hopes that this public consultation could finally put an end to this shameful consumer fraud. However, if the Deputy PM is ignoring the valuable input from Australian consumers it makes a mockery of the whole Consultation. Consumers have spoken and they deserve to get what they’re paying a premium for. They should be able to trust the label on an egg carton.”