Health Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2019 (No 12)
Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I note it is stated that the purpose of this bill is to make a number of technical and minor amendments and in general is a tidying up and implementation of national reforms.
While I note the bill moves to amend the Ambulance Service Act 1982, the Food Act 2003, the Mental Health Act 2013, the Pharmacy Control Act 2001, the Poisons Act 1971 and the Public Health Act 1997, the only act in this bill that I will comment on is the Food Act 2003.
I have received a number of comments and concerns over the years in regard to food vans - some in favour and some not. Michael Stretton, General Manager of the City of Launceston Council, advises that his council people have examined the amendments and welcome the proposed changes. From their point of view, the amendment means that both notifiable and mobile registered food businesses are now afforded similar provision to meet their notification obligations under the Food Act. The change will ensure that mobile food businesses that do not trigger the registration requirements and therefore are able to get statewide registration under section 88 of the act can still operate across the state without having to notify multiple councils.
Michael Bailey, the CEO of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, advises that the TCCI has been lobbying and it would be a good outcome if the bill were to get up. He gave an instance of a van that had been invited to an event at an establishment that bordered two councils. The van had a licence for one council but was fined by the other council. The boundary was just across the road. This is one instance where there were no significant demarcations and that resulted in poor outcomes.
Neil Grose, the Executive Officer of the Launceston Chamber of Commerce, advises that the Launceston Chamber of Commerce welcomes the amendment to the Food Act 2003 that will allow for statewide registration of food vans, rather than the current system of each municipal council requiring separate permits. He believes that Tasmania is seeing a continual growth in mobile food offerings as small business meets growing demand generated by the increased scale and number of significant events. He believes developing a statewide certification process will foster growth in this important business incubator sector in Tasmania's hospitality economy and allow for greater reduction in red tape impediments for small business.
I appreciate that it depends on whom you ask. If you ask customers of the food vans, and I admit to using them myself, they would be in favour of as many as possible. However, if those same customers were to lose their job, or a family member were to lose their job, as a result of lost trade of a hospitality business, they would no doubt have a different opinion. It all really comes down to whether something affects you or not, and I can see both sides.
I will now read out a compilation of comments from hospitality operators I have spoken to. For transparency I also need to declare that I am the wife of a previous hospitality operator. He no longer is but was. Having been there, I understand that side as well.
The main concern for operators is that food vans can operate with nowhere near the red tape and regulation that bricks and mortar businesses need to. The amendments mean less paperwork for mobile food operators, compared with bricks and mortar operators. In a nutshell, a food van operator can complete an application to Hobart City Council, and once approved, operate in any jurisdiction. This would be different to a bricks and mortar business, which could not do one application to cover North Hobart and Eastlands, for example. The point needs to be made that local government makes money, as in rates, out of bricks and mortar businesses. There is concern in the community that they should be charging food vans equal rates based on the same model that they are based on.
It has also been suggested to me that they should have the same levels of kitchen compliance - food safety, trade waste and the list goes on. Trade waste was mentioned by several operators I spoke to. Every member in this House would be well aware of the issue of trade waste and TasWater and the impost on many businesses, which obviously is not something that food vans have to even look at. I have had concerns expressed to me that they should not be treated differently if they are competing in the same business type and area. The question is asked: what would happen if every hospitality business shut down and turned into a food van, and just paid little rates and provided no certainty to local areas?
Concern is often expressed regarding Airbnb and Uber. They tell me that all they want is a fair level playing field, which many do not consider it is at the moment. I ask the question: is it much different with food vans, or is it much the same as Airbnb and Uber? These are the questions we are having now.
All we are hearing there is that people want a fair playing field, and I am hearing from the hospitality sector that all they want is a fair playing field as well.