01 March 2023


Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Assistant Minister for Manufacturing: Right now, in Australian supermarkets, the laws mean that seafood has got to be properly labelled so consumers can see whether the seafoods from overseas or from Australia. What we're going to do is make sure that those rules apply in Australian restaurants.

60 per cent of the seafood that Australians consume is from overseas and the research demonstrates that most Australians believe that if the seafood is not labelled, they believe it's from Australia. So, they assume if that a product is labelled barramundi, then it must be Australian barramundi. And that's just sadly not the case.

So, this set of reforms is going to mean that consumers have got proper fair dinkum labelling, that means that consumers will be able to make a real choice. The fishing industry has been fighting for this set of reforms for 15 years. The fishing industry is really important to our coastal towns. It's mums and dads who run fishing trawlers and small businesses like this one and we're determined to back them and back their industry and get this set of reforms done.

Journalist: And so physically, what sort of changes would we need to see and where? So, are we talking restaurants, cafes? What would happen to their menus to make this happen?

Assistant Minister: What this means is that restaurants, cafes, pubs, clubs, fish and chip shops will just be required to indicate on their menus, is the seafood Australian, is it imported or is it of a mixed origin? So, we've made the reforms really simple. It's not the same as what applies in a supermarket where the labelling requirements are more complicated. What this means is that consumers will get a fair dinkum choice, but we're making the compliance burden and the red tape really low for business. We're making this easy for business so we can get this set of reforms done. And I'm really pleased with the way that the seafood industry, the local fishing industry and the restaurants and hotels are all working collaboratively with the government to get this set of reforms done.

Journalist: And I guess, have you considered what this will cost the industry and businesses in terms of having to rebrand or change menus? And will the government look at providing any financial relief to assist in that process?

Assistant Minister: The cost impact is negligible. There is almost no cost for businesses in this. There is some complexity in making sure that they are labelling it correctly and we're going to work with the industry to provide the right education - support them to do these reforms. We've taken the important first step of making sure that the reforms are really simple and that's washed away a lot of the opposition in the hotel and restaurant sector. I'm very confident with the spirit of cooperation that they have brought to the table and that the seafood industry itself has brought to the table that will end up delivering a set of reforms, that means that next Christmas, when consumers go to their fish and chip shop, they'll have some really straightforward country of origin labelling that means that they can make a fair dinkum choice.

Journalist: And can you talk me through sort of where we're at with consultation period and when you'd like to see these changes start happening?

Assistant Minister: Well, consultation wraps up very shortly and then we've got to work through a process with the Commonwealth and the States to make sure these reforms are consistent at the Commonwealth and State level. There's already a very strong country-of-origin labelling scheme operating in the Northern Territory and it's been operating for years very, very well.

I'm very confident that when we work these issues through with the States, we'll get a high level of cooperation and we'll deliver what is a basic set of reforms. You know, Australians want to be able to make a fair dinkum choice when it comes to their seafoods. Most consumers, if they can buy local seafoods, they'll buy Australian seafood. We're just going to give them that choice.

Journalist: And can I just ask you quickly, as well, we've got the State Government making an announcement on the Port of Newcastle today, with the whole deed issue; $250 million is allocated in the April budget, [indistinct] saying, to kickstart the container terminal there. But in the October budget, of course, in there - as the Assistant Trade Minister, do you know what's happened with that funding?

Assistant Minister: Well, what I'm going to do is wait to see what the New South Wales Government announces today. The Commonwealth will make decisions in due course about that. I'm not going to prejudge what the New South Wales decision is. Suffice to say that making sure that we've got a strong, effective Port of Newcastle with the capacity to deliver product to the world beyond the commodity products is really important for the future of industry and the future of manufacturing jobs in the Hunter. But I'm going to wait to see what the New South Wales Government announces in the course of this election campaign before shooting my mouth off on your television station this afternoon about how the Commonwealth is going to respond.

Journalist: Okay, no worries. Thank you.