Commenting on the appointment of Mick Keogh as the new Agriculture Commissioner for the ACCC, Greens Senator and spokesperson for animal welfare Lee Rhiannon said:
“For 13 years, Mick Keogh has been at the helm of an organisation whose key objective is to increase profits in the agricultural sector.
“The prioritisation of profits over consumer rights and animal welfare is what led to the misuse of the free-range label in the first instance.
“Barnaby Joyce knows that he has lost the debate on the need for legislative reform to ensure truth in free-range labelling, and instead of supporting greater consumer protections we are concerned that Barnaby Joyce has appointed a mouthpiece from the industry to infiltrate the key regulatory body.
“Barnaby Joyce and the National Party only have interest in securing the profits of big agriculture, not protecting genuine free-range farmers.
“As head of the Farm Institute, Mr Keogh was happy to peddle the mistruths of the big industrial egg producers in arguing against a definition of free-range that meet consumer expectations of animal welfare. Now as Commissioner Mick Keogh is free to bring these mistruths to the very body responsible for enforcing consumer protection laws.
“Any free-range egg standard signed off by Ministers later this month will need to be actively be enforced by the ACCC and state consumer affairs bodies.
“There is a risk that Mr Keogh’s appointment will undermine any standard passed by the Ministers and prevent it from being properly enforced at a federal level.
“Barnaby Joyce has effectively bypassed the consumer affairs ministerial meeting and gone straight to the regulator to try and enforce his pro-industrial agricultural agenda.
“The ACCC has played a critical role in exposing dodgy egg producers passing their products off as free-range, however ad-hoc investigations by the ACCC are a poor substitute for a unambiguous national standard for free-range eggs that can be enforced at both a state and federal level.
“It is critical that states and territories argue for a strong, clear standard for free-range eggs in line with consumer expectations that can be applied by their local enforcement agencies,” said Senator Rhiannon.