Backing our Strawberry Farmers

Thursday, 20 September 2018

This is a very important piece of legislation being brought before the House today, and I rise in support of the Criminal Code Amendment (Food Contamination) Bill 2018. I certainly hope that by the end of today this bill becomes law, because it reflects our commitment to keeping Australians safe and supporting our farmers. We know our farmers are already doing it tough right now, and it's already hard enough with the crippling effects of the drought. The tampering of our food supply and, in this case, with something as innocuous, delightful and everyday as a strawberry is absolutely outrageous. It's not acceptable, and this bill makes that clear.

The bill contains measures to increase penalties for existing federal offences related to the contamination of goods. Maximum jail terms will be increased from 10 to 15 years. This will send a strong message of deterrence to anyone who is considering such foolish actions. It also recognises the serious nature of this issue and the contamination of any part of our food supply. We're also introducing new offences that capture reckless behaviour when it comes to the contamination of goods, sending a strong message that this is a very serious crime. It's very simple; this bill is simple. The government is standing up and saying it's not okay to sabotage our food supply and it's certainly not funny. It is certainly not a joke. This bill is about providing families with assurance that the food they're putting on the table for their kids or packing in their kids' lunch boxes for school is safe. It's also about supporting our farmers.

I was incredibly disappointed to hear this morning on local radio station Star 104.5 that a needle has been found in a mango at West Gosford in my electorate of Robertson. After a man found a needle in his mango that he was cutting up, it was reported to the Brisbane Water Local Area Command, and police are investigating it now. This is just not on, and I want to assure families on the Central Coast that the government will not stand for this and that we are taking action today. The sickening thing about these things is that some in our community have sought to create harm and cause distress by sabotaging strawberries, a fruit that we all love to enjoy, that we pack in our kids' lunch boxes and that we cut up and put on our breakfast yogurt. Mums on the Central Coast need to know that the things they're putting into their kids' lunch boxes and on the breakfast table are safe. Australian families, my own included, expect to be able to buy this week's fruit at their local supermarket or at the fruit and vegie store, take it home and enjoy it

The government's action today is taking important steps to make sure that families have certainty that the food they are providing is safe. The last thing that any of us want is to have our child enjoying a strawberry only to find a needle or other dangerous object there. This shouldn't be something that we are ever worried about. The worst thing that should ever happen when you're eating a strawberry is that you manage to stain a white shirt just before a meeting, or stain your school uniform or have juice dribble down your chin. I really want to encourage everyone in my community to go out and buy a box of strawberries. Continue to enjoy them but do make sure that you cut them up and inspect them first.

I'll certainly be continuing to enjoy my strawberries. I'll be making some strawberry and white-chocolate muffins this weekend for the kids. I know my office is planning on making their favourite recipes and tomorrow we'll be having a strawberry cheesecake, a pavlova, and a strawberry and apple crumble, along with some of the muffins, which I'm hoping will turn out okay in the oven. I'm sure many people across the Central Coast will do the same. I'm looking forward to seeing people share their own strawberry stories and recipes on social media, because I know how much our community wants to back our farmers and support them by cutting up our strawberries and not cutting our farmers out. I commend this bill to the House.

Making things happen for Robertson

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