Australian Government leadership around the Baby Formula Shortage
There is a severe shortage of baby formula in Australia like we have never seen before. Desperate parents are driving to multiple locations to find one tin. Some parents are not finding even one tin and are reaching out online to other parents to ‘borrow’ some formula.
After 6 weeks, families with small children are in crisis.
For a segment of our community that have little time and money, the pressure on families is immense just to fulfil the basic needs for their baby. While Australian families struggle, pallets of this precious formula is leaving Australia shores destined for overseas where one tin of Australian baby formula in China can now fetch over $100 (with a local retail prices between $20-30).
This profiteering is directly at the cost of Australian babies, but also has effects across the broader community. A recent Sydney Morning Herald article estimates that in the first half of 2015 $27 million worth of a single brand was bought in Australia – often by Chinese tourists – for onsale in China. At over 200% profit, these underground export businesses are foreseeably making millions of dollars on this emerging black market. This means that while Australian families struggle under austerity measures in the rush to budget surplus, precious goods are leaving our shores untaxed and possibly may be facilitating crimes against the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Act 2007.
This very same problem has been known to other countries around the globe and we can learn from their experience to act quickly and effectively in Australia. Due to the overwhelming demand and commercial profit that can be made, retailers and suppliers cannot resolve this problem alone nor can security at our local shopping centres be the front line. In each instance, governments in parallel have imposed shipping limits to the number of tins individuals can send overseas for personal use. Hong Kong imposed a limit of 1.8kg and the UK 6 tins, each with a maximum of 900g. In addition fines or even jail time could be considered.
Local suppliers are trying hard to keep up with demand; supermarkets have imposed restrictions between 2-4 tins per person, per day trying manage this demand in the last month; but the shelves are still bare for key premium brands such as Bellamys Organic, Karicare and Aptomil. Some people of the community may argue why parents cannot change brands to satisfy their baby’s needs. Outcomes for a change include refusal, allergic reactions, intolerences and any transition with a baby takes time (and often no sleep!)
Urgent action is required by our government to safeguard food supply for our children through initiatives such as:
1) Education for suppliers and retailers to ensure that the health of Australian babies is prioritised over profit, and programs that incentivise and provide recognition for companies actively working to address this crisis.
2) Amendment to the Export Control Act 1982 to reduce single commercial consignment limits of baby formula from 10kg to at least 5kg or below so that individuals sending over 5kgs (approx. 6 tins) will need to register and provide export documentation for their goods. In addition we implore the government to strongly enforce 12 month imprisonment if an individual exceeds these limits and 5 years imprisonment if they provide false information to an authorised officer. We ask the government to refer to case studies from other countries such as Hong Kong, UK and Europe who have had a similar situations occur and have supported retailer restrictions to manage the situation quickly with fines, shipping limitations and jail time.
3) An inquiry into the amount of baby formula being sent overseas from Australia, the cost to Australian families and to Australian taxpayers
I call upon our Government to take action in the interest of the Australia people and more importantly the most vulnerable members of our community – our babies.
Today: Caroline is counting on you
Caroline Raj needs your help with “Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia: Australian Government leadership around the Baby Formula Shortage”. Join Caroline and 4,019 supporters today.