Australia’s controversial palm oil labelling bill may not be passed into law following new recommendations by a committee of the Australian House of Representatives.
The recommendations, which were made by the House of Representatives Economics Committee, said that the Truth in Labelling - Palm Oil Bill 2011would be “ineffective in changing labelling laws.”
The committee further stated that the legislation would harm Australia’s international relationships, threatens nationally uniform consumer laws and would not solve the problem of deforestation.
The bill is aimed at making consumers aware of palm oil as an ingredient. Palm oil can currently be listed as vegetable oil on packaging.
Originally proposed by independent Senator Nick Xenophon, the bill was based on environmental concerns, citing deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia for palm oil production.
The bill was passed by the Senate at the end of June and is now awaiting consideration in House of Representatives, where if passed, it will be a law.
Opposition to the bill welcomes recommendations
The bill has been widely opposed from all quarters, most recently by the federal government which said it would violate Australia’s obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) and put Australian food businesses under extra compliance costs of AU$150m.
But there is still a risk that the bill might become law, as the federal government and the opposition coalition have parity in numbers. As of the current status, the ruling government controls 72 seats in the House of Representatives, while the opposition coalition also controls 72 seats.
However, the Australian and Food Grocery Council (AFGC) is now confident and has called on both the government and the opposition coalition to oppose the palm oil labelling legislation.
In a statement, AFGC chief executive Kate Carnell said that the recommendations man that it is now critical for the House of Representatives to reject this Bill – which is unworkable and will be a significant new cost to industry.
Carnell reiterated her previous statements Australia only uses 0.3 per cent of the world's palm oil and most of the affected food companies in Australia have committed to using certified, sustainable palm oil by 2015, or when available in sufficient quantities. A change in labelling is therefore not required, she said.