The ACT has long supported a maximum stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare.
However, thanks to new federal standards, a carton of eggs can now be labelled as free range if they were produced by hens subject to a maximum stocked density of 10,000 hens per hectare.
Many of you have told me that's not good enough. We don't think it is either.
While we're required to abide by the federal standard, last week we passed legislation requiring all cartons to display the stocking density of free range eggs on their cartons - and all supermarkets will be displaying a sign that says our preferred stocking density 1500 hens per hectare.
This will allow consumers to make an informed choice right there in the aisle.
Listen to my speech or read the transcript below.
Madam Speaker, many of us are trying our best to make more informed decisions when it comes to purchasing groceries at the supermarket.
We care about what we place in our baskets and trolleys - and we care about the food that ends up on our plates.
If there is one scenario where consumers will so often go that extra mile to understand where their produce has come from - and how it has been produced - it is the selection of eggs.
Walk down any aisle and you’ll see various labels on egg cartons, including caged eggs and free-range eggs.
But these labels don’t quite paint the full picture.
You see, in April last year, the introduction of the mandatory Australian Consumer Standard (Free Range Egg Labelling) Information Standard 2018 meant that a carton of eggs could be labelled “free-range” if it was produced by hens subject to a maximum stocking density of 10,000 birds per hectare.
Ten thousand birds. We don’t think that’s good enough.
The ACT Government has long supported a maximum standard of 1500 hens per hectare. That’s a big difference.
As you can see, when it comes to animal welfare, we have much higher standards.
Unfortunately, we need to be consistent with federal legislation and ensure our labelling laws are consistent with the new mandatory Commonwealth standard.
Although we are unhappy with this federal change, we want to make it clear that our standards are much higher.
Madam Speaker, this is why I support the Consumer Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2018.
This bill includes an extra provision that paves the way for new signage, to better inform Canberra shoppers weighing up their choices.
Under these changes, all retailers selling free-range eggs across Canberra will be required to display a sign that clearly states that the ACT Government supports a maximum stocking density of 1500 hens per hectare.
The bill also amends the Eggs Act to mirror the Commonwealth Information Standard requirement of clearly displaying the stocking density of free-range eggs on packaging.
This means shoppers will be able to easily compare the stocking density listed on a carton of eggs and compare it to the ACT Government’s preferred stocking density limit.
These are simple changes but ones that will make it easier for consumers to make an informed decision in line with their own ethical values.
Madam Speaker, this government is a long-time advocate of more humane stocking densities. And we’re not the only ones.
The CSIRO, CHOICE and the RSPCA are just a few of the organisations that support a standard of no more than 1500 hens per hectare when it comes to the production of free-range eggs.
Many of my constituents share similar standards.
My office has received countless emails from residents concerned about the federal changes to egg labelling. Canberrans who care deeply about the welfare of the hens laying our eggs.
While we would prefer much stricter conditions for the labelling of eggs as “free-range”, we are doing what we can - within these limitations - to uphold our commitment to animal welfare.
Madam Speaker, this government cares about the treatment of hens.
And we care about consumers who are trying to do the right thing at the check-out.
The Consumer Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 will go some way to improving the information available to consumers purchasing eggs throughout Canberra.
I commend this bill to the Assembly.