Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:13): Pursuant to standing order 23.29, I lay on the table a report from the Legal and Social Issues Committee on the inquiry into the closure of I Cook Foods Pty Ltd, including appendices, transcripts of evidence, extracts of proceedings and a minority report. I move:
That the report be published.
Motion agreed to.
Ms PATTEN: I move:
That the Council take note of the report.
Before I just speak briefly on this report, I would very much like to thank the secretariat of the Legal and Social Issues Committee. They are doing some extraordinary work in extraordinary times. They have been working around the clock. We have been working on weekends to meet some pretty strict deadlines for these reports. I have to say it has just been such an effort, in particular to Lilian Topic, Kieran Crowe, Alice Petrie, Vivienne Bannan and Anique Owen, but also just to the whole team.
Not only have we been doing the homelessness inquiry and the I Cook Foods inquiry but we are also preparing for a cannabis inquiry and a sex offender inquiry, and I believe we also have a law reform inquiry as well. So they are doing an enormous amount of work. They are using technology like the Parliament has never done before. We are really trialling new ways to be able to have public hearings where we are speaking to experts from around the world and the public maybe cannot take part but can hear directly from those people rather than just reading about it in a report. These times have probably shown some of the innovation that this Parliament can achieve.
This inquiry into I Cook Foods was going to be a quick and short inquiry, but when you look at the size of this report, it certainly belies the speed with which this inquiry was turned around. We conducted two public hearings and we received literally thousands of pages of documents. Some of them were required to be subpoenaed, and I was pleased to see that the City of Greater Dandenong did actually agree to that subpoena.
This is a report that makes 13 recommendations largely around what we found was an archaic food act. The Food Act 1984 caused many of the problems that befell I Cook Foods Pty Ltd. We found that the closure order issued to that family business that had been operating for nigh on 30 years was valid but was not fair, that the processes that led to that closure were unfair and that the processes used by the City of Greater Dandenong were inconsistent and completely inadequate. Frankly, they were not up to the job of regulating the food industry in Dandenong. That comes out in this report, that comes out in the transcripts, that comes out in the very evidence that they provided to us.
Now, the Department of Health and Human Services also failed here, because ultimately it is the department’s role to protect us in these areas, and their food safety regulations are old, their food safety regulations are not fit for purpose, and this is what we found in this report. So I think despite this being a very quick inquiry into a very specific issue around the closure of one family business, it actually exposed many issues that need to be addressed, and we hope that the government accepts our recommendations. I commend the report.