FSANZ

23 November 2021

Everyone in this place knows the power of money in politics. Everyone knows how donations provide access to our elected representatives. Everyone knows how political donations buy influence in policy and legislation. We know because we have seen it time and time again. I worry that we are seeing it again with Food Standards Australia New Zealand, known as FSANZ. FSANZ is a small agency that plays a big role in regulating food ingredients and labelling. It is very important work.

FSANZ recently proposed pregnancy warning labels on alcohol, an initiative that would help prevent future cases of things like fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. This was opposed by the two ministers responsible—Senator Colbeck and Mr Littleproud. They likely didn't oppose it because it was bad policy. They likely didn't oppose it because of the cost. They likely opposed it because the alcohol industry did not want health warnings on their products. Two weeks after the FSANZ proposed a compromise, the ministers launched a review that could strip FSANZ of its powers. It wasn't long before the chair and the CEO were both out the door. The circumstances of their departures are very much unclear. I can't help but wonder if they were pushed.

There are three important questions we need answered, and we need them answered quickly. Has the independence of FSANZ been compromised? Is the government working to benefit the health of Australians or the alcohol industry's profitability? Most importantly, is the government working in the public interest or its own self-interest?

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