Standing up for Canberra

Australian Standard for Olive Oil 2012

As someone who loves to cook and who was brought up by a mother who constantly told us that olive oil and garlic were the keys to good health, good skin, sparkly eyes and shiny hair, it gives me great pleasure to speak on this motion tonight. I have even missed out finding out who the finalist on The Voice is to speak on this motion tonight, so that shows my commitment to standards of olive oil!

This motion raises the importance of supporting our Australian industries, because when it comes to olive oil, there have been some disturbing reports that suggest that 'oils ain't oils' and that some imported olive oils that are marketed as 'light' or 'extra virgin' are not those at all. In the case of olive oil, some of the cheap foreign imports that you will find on your supermarket shelves not only are of inferior quality but have been found to be wrongly labelled. Many foreign olive oils marketed as Spanish or Italian are actually from places such as Morocco, so that is why I commend the member for Kingston for raising this important motion tonight.

It is an issue that was raised by my sister late last year. She is a master of wine and a winemaker, and she is very good friends with Stefano de Pieri, who owns that fabulous restaurant in Mildura. I know that it has been an issue of concern for him for many years and it has been an issue of concern for my sister in recent years, so it is a real pleasure to be able to speak on it tonight, and I again commend the member for Kingston for raising it.

Australians are big consumers of olive oil, but too often what we think we are buying is not what we are actually getting. According to the CEO of Standards Australia, consumers are often misled into believing they are buying healthy products such as extra virgin olive oil, which is natural, fresh and unrefined, when they are not. In fact, a recent Australian Olive Association analysis found seven out of seven imported varieties failed to comply with extra virgin olive oil standards due to rancidity, mildew or incorrect labelling. By comparison, 75 per cent of Australian-made oils complied with the standard.

It is unfortunate that Australia's quality olive oil products have had to compete with inferior overseas imports that simply are not labelled properly or are made up of other oils entirely, such as canola oil. We must do all we can to assist the commercial viability of our domestic olive oil industry, as this motion suggests. Misleading labelling poses significant challenges for our domestic producers as well as consumers. It prevents us from making informed choices about the products we consume. For something many of us use so frequently, that we trust as a healthy product, this is simply not good enough.

That is why, like the member for Kingston, I welcome the introduction of the Australian Standard for Olive Oils and Olive-Pomace Oils in 2011, which clearly defines the grade, content and quality of olive oil products and establishes labelling and packaging requirements. This new standard is helping to ensure customers can be confident that when they buy topquality olive oil, that is what they will get. It will allow consumers to shop with confidence and know that, when they buy olive oil according to Australian standards, they are getting a top-quality product.

The standard, introduced last year, applies to all olive and olive-pomace oils that are traded in Australia. It defines grades of olive oils, specifies chemical composition and quality parameters for these grades, establishes requirements for labelling and packing and lists acceptable methods of analysis. The purpose of the standard is to provide all those involved in the olive oil and olive-pomace oil trade, from producers to consumers, with a modern reference document that establishes an objective basis for the trade of these products. But the standard cannot work properly unless retailers get on board too. That is why it is welcome news that some retailers intend to phase in the voluntary national standard for olive oil.

I call on those retailers to do so in a timely and rigorous manner. I also urge all retailers to adopt and enforce the standard so that consumers can make informed purchasing choices. This will also ensure our producers of accurately-labelled olive oils, who are doing the right thing, benefit from a level playing field. Buying Australian-produced olive oil is not only delicious, but it is good news for our local producers, it uses less packaging and it helps to reduce our carbon footprint as well. Buying local is much better for our environment and ensures you will get a product that is fresh, Australian made and of proven high quality— and you cannot argue with that.

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