Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Engineer in Charge

By Simon Grose

Redefining pepper and implanting STEM cells are on the agenda of the new Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Science.

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Thirty years ago, as a mechanical engineer beginning her career in a power station in Gladstone, Karen Andrews had no inkling that the lack of a commercial pepper industry in Australia would be an issue for her. But with country-of-origin food labelling now one of her portfolio responsibilities, it means a swag of locally made processed food cannot be properly labelled “100% Australian”.

With a maximum 18 months until the next election, she expects it will take that long to implement a labelling system. Her portfolio minister, fellow Queenslander Ian Macfarlane, and ministers Barnaby Joyce (Agriculture) Andrew Robb (Trade), Bruce Billson (Small Business) and Fiona Nash (Health) also have seats at the food labelling table.

“It’s going to be a very difficult issue for us to resolve, not the least with our trade obligations and whether what we might be requiring importers to do might be a restriction of trade,” she told Australasian Science.

Food labelling is the most politically challenging of the grab-bag of responsibilities Macfarlane has delegated to her since she was appointed 2 days before Christmas – the SKA Telescope, the Anti-Dumping Commission, IP Australia, Questacon, the Institute of Marine Science, the National Measurement Institute, the Australia–India Strategic Research Fund and the Australia China Science and Research Fund, building codes...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.