Interview with Tina Quinn, Rural Report, ABC Mid and North Coast

Tina Quinn
Country of origin seafood labelling

Kim Honan, Host: Well, the Assistant Manufacturing Minister, Tim Ayres, has met with industry stakeholders on the Mid North Coast to conduct roundtable discussions with key stakeholders on the reforms that the seafood industry has been fighting for, for more than 15 years. He told Tina Quinn that the Albanese Government is making good on its election promise to deliver country of origin seafood labelling.

Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Assistant Minister for Manufacturing: To make sure that there's consistency to what's happening in the supermarket market and the fish markets, requiring restaurants and the hotel industry to be clear with consumers about what it is that they're buying. Right now, 62 per cent of Australian seafood is imported and most Australian consumers believe that if they buy barramundi that it's locally produced, when in fact, that's often far from the case.

Tina Quinn, Reporter: And in the discussions that you've had so far with the hospitality sector, what's the sort of response that you're getting on the ground from them?

Assistant Minister: Well, we're going to engage really thoroughly with the hospitality sector. I think that the hotel sector, the restaurant sector, firstly, accept that this is a commitment that the government made during the election campaign. Secondly, we've made very clear that this is going to be a very simple set of reforms with a very low compliance burden. We're really focused on delivering the policy outcome without the complexity in the red tape. And thirdly, the hotel sector and the restaurant sector understand that consumer preferences are changing. Australian consumers are more interested in where their seafood has come from, more interested in quality, and I think the restaurant sector is moving with those changes in consumer sentiment. 

Some elements of the restaurant sector have historically opposed these changes, but in my view, they accept that this is an election commitment that the Albanese Government made during the election campaign and that we've got a track record of doing what we said we would do. We're working carefully with the sector, but I do believe in my conversations with the sector that there's real evidence of the sector's position shifting over time, because they can see what consumers are demanding in restaurants and fish and chip shops and hotels around the country. That consumers are more and more interested in having a real choice, and more and more interested in where their seafood comes from.

Quinn: Right, so you're saying the sector has been largely supportive of these changes, but when it comes to opposition, what sort of opposition is it that you're hearing? What sort of criticism do they have for these changes, what are their concerns?

Assistant Minister: Well, the previous Morrison Government fought these reforms tooth and nail. They were bitterly opposed to them. They told the restaurant sector, incorrectly that there would be a huge compliance burden. So, part of my job now is working with the restaurant sector and the seafood industry in partnership to make sure that these reforms are delivered in a way where the sectors are working together, where the compliance burden is really low and we achieve the ultimate objective, which is - which should pull us all together. That is, we want Australian consumers to have a real choice.

Quinn: Right. So, just having a look at the figures that your office has provided us from the cost benefit analysis of the scheme, it says that every dollar of costs incurred will end up generating $3.30 in benefits. How so?

Assistant Minister: Well, the real benefit of this is going to be consumers will have a choice, that will lead to more uptake of Australian seafood. That means more income for fishing families, for seafood industry families. There are 10,000 people whose livelihoods depend on this sector. Families who run fishing trawlers, blue collar families in our coastal towns who run prawning operations or lobster operations. We're in their corner. 

We're determined to back the fishing industry, support their viability. It will lead to an economic benefit for that sector, but it will also lead to a fair dinkum choice for consumers. It's the right reform. It should have happened a long time ago. And I'm delighted to be working with both these important sectors to deliver this economic benefit. And I'm very pleased to see that most of this benefit will flow to country towns and to regional Australia.

Honan: Labor's Assistant Manufacturing Minister Tim Ayres.