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A test for Shane Rattenbury on free-range egg standards

By 17 June 2014 10

So, the states and territories are going to get together and agree on a national standard for the definition of “free range eggs”. Currently the animal welfare advocates nominate 1500 birds a hectare, while the industry would like 20,000 birds a hectare labelled free range.

These days Shane Rattenbury doesn’t have a lot to say on Green business – but let’s see whether he will allow the Labor minority government to roll the Greens’ ethical line on this issue, which no-one could argue isn’t a core Green policy matter. The RSPCA completely squibs on the issue, referring on the EEU standard of maximum 2500 eggs per hectare, without overtly supporting it.

ABC Breakfast on RN covered it yesterday morning (16 June).

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/free-range-eggs-officially-defined/5526110

So. Shane, given that you have the opportunity to strongly influence the outcome, are you going to ensure that Australia-wide, the definition of free-range eggs is eggs from “chickens stocked up to 2,500 a hectare”?

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10 Responses to
A test for Shane Rattenbury on free-range egg standards
patrick_keogh 7:37 pm
17 Jun 14
#1

So Masquara, just to make sure I understand, you are asking Shane as one minister in the government of the smallest of the states and territories to “ensure that Australia wide blah blah”. How could Shane ensure this? Even if in every jurisdiction where the Greens hold the balance of power he had assistance of the other Greens that still would clearly not be even a significant minority. What the Tories want in Qld, NSW, NT, WA and Victoria is probably more relevant to the outcome. Nice try though to get Shane to break ranks on an issue where he can have no significant impact on the outcome.

Grail 8:18 pm
17 Jun 14
#2

As a rough guide, a “typical” older Canberra suburban block is about a quarter of an acre, or 0.1 ha. My backyard is about 0.03ha and can support about three chickens quite happily scratching around and living very comfortable lives (for a domestic chicken), translating to about 100 chickens per hectare when the land is planted with forage plants for the chooks.

The 1500 chickens per hectare translates to about 150 chickens on a quarter acre block. You wouldn’t be able to walk from the back door to the washing line without having to shoo a couple of chickens out of your way (and you’d be walking through dozens of avian deposits on the way there). You’d also be bringing chicken feed in by the truck load, and the chooks would scratch the entire yard to dirt within a week.

20,000 chickens per hectare translates to about 2000 chickens in a quarter acre block. You wouldn’t be able to see the ground for all the chickens. Even when the chickens are huddled together on one side of the yard, the rest of the yard would be a sea of chook poo.

Masquara 8:45 pm
17 Jun 14
#3

patrick_keogh said :

So Masquara, just to make sure I understand, you are asking Shane as one minister in the government of the smallest of the states and territories to “ensure that Australia wide blah blah”. How could Shane ensure this? Even if in every jurisdiction where the Greens hold the balance of power he had assistance of the other Greens that still would clearly not be even a significant minority. What the Tories want in Qld, NSW, NT, WA and Victoria is probably more relevant to the outcome. Nice try though to get Shane to break ranks on an issue where he can have no significant impact on the outcome.

patrick_keogh said :

So Masquara, just to make sure I understand, you are asking Shane as one minister in the government of the smallest of the states and territories to “ensure that Australia wide blah blah”. How could Shane ensure this? Even if in every jurisdiction where the Greens hold the balance of power he had assistance of the other Greens that still would clearly not be even a significant minority. What the Tories want in Qld, NSW, NT, WA and Victoria is probably more relevant to the outcome. Nice try though to get Shane to break ranks on an issue where he can have no significant impact on the outcome.

Shane Rattenbury has the balance of power, and as I understand it, the states and territories will have to be unanimous in order to achieve uniform legislation. How would sticking by his Green principles constitute “breaking ranks”? Breaking ranks with whom?
I hope he achieves a proper “free range” definition. That would be an amazing legacy.

Grail 8:46 pm
17 Jun 14
#4

patrick_keogh said :

So Masquara, just to make sure I understand, you are asking Shane as one minister in the government of the smallest of the states and territories to “ensure that Australia wide blah blah”. How could Shane ensure this?

Have you ever been to a dinner party, and afterwards the conversation goes on and on forever, then one person decides it’s time to leave, and somehow by the time that person is heading for the door, everyone is packing up and heading home?

That happens because there are a bunch of people who are quite comfortable with the status quo (in the example, having a yak over some after-dinner drinks), but are aware that eventually they’ll need to go home. Nobody wants to be the first to go, because they like the status quo. Once that first person starts to make tracks though, everyone else is galvanised into action. Someone has started going home, therefore it’s okay to start packing up yourself because the status quo has already shifted: no longer are we playing “after dinner drinks” we are now playing, “farewells and departing”.

The same holds true for politics between regions within any country: a bunch of legislatures realise that something will need to be done, but taking any action is (by definition) deviating from the status quo. Once somebody breaks ranks, it’s easier to follow that example.

So masquara is pretty much on the money, asking whether the ACT is going to go through with legislating a definition of “Free Range” in order to break the status quo and give the other legislatures an example to follow. Because following is easier than leading, especially when it comes to a long establish status quo.

dungfungus 8:04 am
18 Jun 14
#5

Now that the alleged “Narrabundah Tyre Slasher” has been caught, perhaps the police can allocate their resources to catching the “Tuggeranong Car Eggers”.
It would be ironic if they were caught and pleaded that they were consciously using range free eggs to support animal welfare. It would be likely that most of the magistrates would let them off and award them damages.

patrick_keogh 10:03 am
18 Jun 14
#6

My point is that no matter what position the ACT takes to the meeting, there are only two likely outcomes from the meeting of states and territories: no agreement (so no uniform legislation) or agreement on a compromise definition.

No agreement will mean that in general the birds will not be treated any differently in the future than they have in the past. Some states and territories will pass legislation at or near the 20,000 birds level, one or two might pass legislation at the 2,500 birds level. Given the relatively small ACT market, the average laying chook in Australia will see no difference.

A compromise agreement (at say, 10,000) would make a larger difference to more birds but would be seen as a betrayal of principles by some, but I for one believe in something being better than nothing. I’m sure that Shane is familiar with Otto’s quip of 1867 on the subject.

Grail 10:45 pm
18 Jun 14
#7

“A government must not waiver once it has chosen it’s course. It must not look to the left or right but go forward.”?

Or was there another quote that you had in mind?

patrick_keogh 9:05 am
19 Jun 14
#8

Grail said :

“A government must not waiver once it has chosen it’s course. It must not look to the left or right but go forward.”?

Or was there another quote that you had in mind?

:-) No it was indeed another quote I had in mind: “Die Politik ist die Lehre vom Möglichen.”

Shane Rattenbury MLA 3:43 pm
01 Jul 14
#9

Hi,

Thanks for the question about free range eggs. Whilst I disagree that I don’t have a lot to say on Green business – given that my Ministerial responsibilities as Minister for Territory and Municipal Affairs, Housing, Corrections, Ageing and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs span the whole spectrum of environmental and social justice issues – the increasing awareness and concern from the community about animal welfare in the agricultural industry is heartening, and an important impetus for change.

As you probably know, the ACT was the first jurisdiction in Australia to pass legislation ceasing battery cage egg production and sow stalls. That was Greens legislation, and it took us five attempts to get it passed, but persistence finally paid off. In line with this, the Greens policy is that “free-range eggs” applies only to a stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare which is in line with CSIRO recommendations.

You ask how I am going to ensure that Australia-wide the definition of free-range eggs is consistently less than “2,500 a hectare”. That’s a much tougher ask of a Member of the ACT Legislative Assembly – but what I can tell you is that as Primary Industry Minister I have put it on the agenda at the national Primary Industry Ministers meeting. The agenda item went by the wayside with the new Federal Government, but I intend to keep pursuing the matter. My Greens colleagues in other states are doing the same.

Shane

Canberroid 4:27 pm
01 Jul 14
#10

Shane Rattenbury MLA said :

The agenda item went by the wayside with the new Federal Government, but I intend to keep pursuing the matter. My Greens colleagues in other states are doing the same.

Shane

Thanks Shane. I’d also love to see improvement of labelling standards for free range eggs so I know whether I’m supporting a 1,500 chickens/hectare farm or a not-so-free 20,000/hectare farm. Please keep up the good work.

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