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TRANSCRIPT Interview – 2GB Breakfast with Steve Price

Topics: National Measurement Institute 2019-20 compliance program

E&OE:

Steve Price: Report in The Telegraph- Sunday Telegraph yesterday about what someone could describe as the beer and banger police. Apparently the Federal Government is going to send out mystery shoppers to visit butchers, pubs and supermarkets posing as customers to make sure we are not being ripped off. Ten thousand lines of packaged goods will be tested. 

It’s reported it is an issue in so-called hipster pubs where drinks are served in non-traditional containers like mason jars. My argument would be if you go to one of those pubs you probably deserve to be ripped off. 

Let’s find out what this is all about. The Federal Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews is on the line. Minister, good morning.

Karen Andrews: Good morning, Steve. 

Steve Price: You frequent hipster pubs very much, Minister?

Karen Andrews: No. I don’t actually. I’m a pretty uncool Science Minister.  

[Laughter]

Steve Price: Me either. I don’t mind craft beer but I don’t really go to hipster pubs. What’s the- is there a serious problem here that you need to fix?

Karen Andrews: Look, there is. So the National Measurement Institute has had responsibility for a very long time to make sure that what consumers are paying for is what they’re getting. So they’ve done tests for many years at your petrol stations to make sure that you’re getting the right amount of fuel but there are a few issues that I’m very keen to address on behalf of all consumers. So the National Measurement Institute is going to go out and conduct a blitz - actually the biggest in history to make sure people are getting what they’ve paid for, whether that’s beer, whether that’s meat, whether that’s deli products or whether that’s fuel.

Steve Price: So let’s take meat as an example are you talking about people being sold under measured? Like you want a kilo of sausages and you get 800 grams or are we talking about products that are labelled incorrectly? Are we- what are we actually talking about in regards to something like meat?

Karen Andrews: Well, it could be a combination of both but there have been some instances where supermarkets have already been caught selling the pre-packed steaks around about 20 per cent under weight. Now, that is a significant problem.

Steve Price: I always wonder about that, when you pick up one of those- I mean I try not to- I try to go to a butcher if I can. But when you do buy that pre-package meat there’s no way you can weigh it yourself, you wouldn’t know.

Karen Andrews: No. And that’s one of the issues. So you’re taking at face value, exactly what’s written on that label. So if it says a kilo, it needs to be a kilo because that’s what you’re paying for. So there is an obligation for supermarkets and other retail outlets to make sure that their measuring equipment, whether that be scales or whether it’s by volume, that it’s accurate. 

Steve Price: So the National Measurement Institute undercover operatives will do this, take it back to headquarters and actually weigh it. What is the- are there substantial fines for cheating customers on these sorts of ways?

Karen Andrews: Look, the NMI can issue infringement notices and they’re about a thousand dollars. Often there’s things that can be fixed on the spot and that is done, but if there’s an infringement notice issued, that can be for about a thousand dollars. If it is a major issue and it’s prosecuted, then there can be an about $210,000 fine associated with it. So there are significant penalties for doing this. 

Steve Price: So will these be real people or are you issuing this as a warning to businesses to do the right thing? Are there really going to be people measuring how much beer is in a glass? 

Karen Andrews: Absolutely. So this is a two-pronged attack. So we’re out there now giving fair notice to retailers that they’re potentially going to be hit with some significant auditing of what they’re doing. So they’ve got an opportunity to rectify if they know they’re doing the wrong thing now but we’ve got inspectors that will be out there, continue to be out there every day on the road making sure that the consumer is being looked after and are not being ripped off.

Steve Price: So anyone listening to us this morning who suspects they are or might have been, are they able to actually, as individuals, contact the National Measurement Institute? Which I didn’t even know existed. Are they allowed to dob people in?

Karen Andrews: Yes. Absolutely. So look, if they think there’s a problem they should raise it directly with the outlet but otherwise, they can contact the National Measurement Institute. It’s NMI.gov.au.

Steve Price: Very good pleasure- great pleasure to talk to you. Enjoying being back in government?

Karen Andrews: Yes, I am and we’ve got a wonderful opportunity now to make a real difference to so many people and Scott Morrison and his team are in there doing exactly that.

Steve Price: Alright. Karen Andrews is the Minister there. Thank you very much for your time.

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