The importance of biosecurity has been highlighted over the last week following the linking of consumption of frozen berries with several cases of Hepatitis A across the country. The Australian Department of Health is coordinating a national health response to this issue after cases were reported in Victoria, News South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.
Australia has a sound reputation for safe and clean food and Australian berry growers are not a part of this current issue. The issue of food labelling has been brought into focus, but ultimately we must remember that there is a responsibility on companies to ensure that they retail safe and quality products to Australian consumers.
The Department of Agriculture has been liaising with Chinese Government authorities regarding safety assurances for any further shipments of frozen berries as well as requesting an urgent review by FSANZ (Food Safety Australia and New Zealand). I encourage anyone who has eaten the frozen recalled berries and feels unwell to consult their GP. There is more information available for GPs, patients and consumers at www.health.gov.au.
I believe we should consider carefully country of origin food labelling. This could be an important tool for consumers however we must ensure we avoid any unintended consequences through undue increased costs.
Earlier this year, I spoke in Parliament on the Biosecurity Bill 2014 about the importance of biosecurity for Australian consumers and particularly for agriculture. Whilst there are many challenges associated with ensuring that we maintain an adequate framework for dealing with risks, our situation as an island nation means that we have in many ways been protected from dangers in the past.
Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison has released the final report by the Productivity Commission on Childcare and Early Childhood Learning. This has been the biggest enquiry into childcare since the 1990s.
The Federal Government spends almost $7 billion every year to assist families with the cost of quality childcare. The report has identified the strong argument for targeting support to especially meet the needs of middle and low income families. This will ensure these families are able to maintain their standard of living and avoid getting caught in a welfare trap.
This can be a difficult time for families, and often parents have no choice but to return to work. The report from the Productivity Commission identifies that assistance available to families should be better targeted to ensure increases in labour force participation.
Under Labor the cost of childcare increased by more than 50 per cent. Some of these increased costs are associated with the National Quality Framework (NQF).
The Government will assess the reaction of the community to the proposals put forward by the Productivity Commission.