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AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PREVENTIVE HEALTH AGENCY BILL 2010
- Parl No.
- Question No.
Barnett, Sen Guy
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- Start of Business
- SOCIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (CONNECTING PEOPLE WITH JOBS) BILL 2010
- AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PREVENTIVE HEALTH AGENCY BILL 2010
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Fifield, Sen Mitchell, Evans, Sen Chris)
(Moore, Sen Claire, Evans, Sen Chris)
(Birmingham, Sen Simon, Conroy, Sen Stephen)
(Marshall, Sen Gavin, Carr, Sen Kim)
(Bernardi, Sen Cory, Conroy, Sen Stephen)
Health: Disease Control
(Milne, Sen Christine, Ludwig, Sen Joe)
(Kroger, Sen Helen, Conroy, Sen Stephen)
(Sterle, Sen Glenn, Conroy, Sen Stephen)
(Coonan, Sen Helen, Conroy, Sen Stephen)
- Gillard Government
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL ANSWERS
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS
- LEAVE OF ABSENCE
- Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee
- Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
- National Capital and External Territories Committee
- Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
- Corporations and Financial Services Committee
- Environment and Communications References Committee
- PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION REPORT
- LANGUAGE RIGHTS OF TIBETANS
- MENTAL HEALTH
- FOOD STANDARDS AMENDMENT (TRUTH IN LABELLING—GENETICALLY MODIFIED MATERIAL) BILL 2010
- ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- AVIATION CRIMES AND POLICING LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2010
AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PREVENTIVE HEALTH AGENCY BILL 2010
- Second Reading
- In Committee
- Support of People with Disabilities
- Mr Thomas Reid MBE
- Mr Andrew McLeod
- Apology to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants
- National School Chaplaincy Program
- Solar Cities Project
Cunningham Dax Collection
- Australian Greens
- QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Senator BARNETT (1:33 PM) —I am pleased to stand in the Senate to speak to the Australian National Preventive Health Agency Bill 2010 and support it. I am aware of the amendments put forward by a number of senators on behalf of the coalition. The government, through this bill, is addressing concerns in the three areas of obesity, tobacco and alcohol. Many of the objectives and the substance of the bill came out of the National Health Preventative Taskforce report. I want to commend Professor Rob Moodie, Professor Paul Zimmet and members of that task force for the work that they did. This is important work. Many of their recommendations have not been adequately responded to by the Labor government in terms of action. It appears to me that the government is in a policy paralysis position at the moment. I will explain why.
I would like to address my remarks in particular to concerns addressed in this bill about the obesity epidemic in Australia. I acknowledge the work that will have to be undertaken with respect to tobacco and alcohol, but my remarks will relate to obesity and the health complications that flow from that—for example, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and a whole range of other health complications. Prior to the 2007 election, the government made obesity a national health priority. That was strongly welcomed. They adopted a recommendation that I set out in my book entitled The millennium disease: responses to Australia’s obesity epidemic, edited by me and launched by the Hon. Tony Abbott in December 2006. They adopted my policy and I am very pleased about that. Since then there has been little action in addressing this epidemic. They have made it a national health priority but there has been little action.
In terms of the cost of obesity in Australia today, Access Economics released a report. It was about three years ago at one of my healthy lifestyle forums—I have had 10 since 2002—which are held annually in Canberra or in Tasmania. That report said that the cost is some $58 billion a year—$8.3 billion directly and then there are indirect and lost productivity costs. That is a huge amount. This is not just a health concern; this is a concern for the economy. This is a concern for all levels of government and, in particular, the federal government. Dr Lynne Pezzullo from Access Economics presented that report and it has been used and referred to consistently, month after month, year after year, since it was released some years ago. It was updated as well.
I also refer to the Medibank Health Solutions research report, Obesity in Australia: financial impacts and cost benefits of intervention, of March 2010—a more recent report which stated that it is estimated that 7,200 Australians die each year due to obesity and obesity related illness. That is serious. Those are big numbers. Fellow Aussies are dying every year as a result of this epidemic. Of course, this does not refer to the health complications that flow through; I am simply referring to the number of deaths. The report states that obesity intervention policies aimed at reducing the prevalence of obesity in Australia will yield strong benefits for the economy. I congratulate Medibank on that research and for the work that has been undertaken. There is clearly a whole lot more work to do.
The aggressive effort by the former Howard government was initiated at my healthy lifestyle forum in June 2004, where the Howard government announced four key initiatives: two hours of PE in schools per week, a $15 million incentive to clean up our tuckshops—there is still a lot more work to do on that all around Australia—and the Active After-school Communities program, which is a fantastically successful program that has, sadly, not been fully extended by this federal Labor government. When obesity and diabetes are national health priorities, why won’t they extend that successful and popular program? It is a great shame and a great sadness. Under public pressure, including from Tasmania and all across the country, the Active After-school Communities program has now been extended by one year, but they refuse to extend it further into the future, and that is a great disappointment.
Back in 2004 there was, I think, over $11 million for an education and awareness campaign, and the initiative before us in this bill will increase that substantially. For that I am very grateful. I believe that it is so important to get the message out, particularly among our young people, in terms of improving healthy lifestyles, the way we live our lives, healthy eating and regular exercise.
In Australia today, we are looking at 60 per cent plus of our adult population in terms of people being obese or overweight. Those numbers are tragically high and, sadly, they are increasing, not decreasing. They have been increasing for some decades now, but they seem to be going up and up and up. This has an impact on all parts of our lives. For example, just a month or so ago in Senate estimates the Australian Defence Force updated their figures and confirmed that 14 per cent of the Australian Defence Force were obese. That is just one per cent below the US, which is the fattest nation on the face of this earth. Depending on which review you look at, Australia is in the top four or the top six, behind the US, the UK and Mexico. That is not good enough. This government are on notice. They are aware of these concerns, they are aware of the cost to the community—not just the health costs but the economic costs—and they have done very little. They need to do a lot more.
I want to draw attention to the disgraceful decision made by Nicola Roxon on behalf of the government last Friday. That decision was to totally can the $449 million funding promise, which was to be implemented, for people with diabetes around Australia. This is another broken promise by the Labor government. It happens again and again. Remember that there are 1.5 million Aussies with diabetes—140,000 or thereabouts have type 1—and they would have benefited big time from that. There were concerns from the AMA and others, and I acknowledge that, but the government promised that money. They promised the $449 million. They promised it would happen.
Last month at Senate estimates I asked about the progress of the funding. The government were setting up advisory committees and there were some concerns there. Those concerns were highlighted, but there was not an inkling that that promise would be killed off, that that money would be taken away from care for people with diabetes in Australia. That decision was made last Friday—two days before 14 November, World Diabetes Day. What could be worse? What a cruel hoax on the people of Australia, particularly those 1.5 million Aussies and their families. They were advised that they would be getting support through their GP, through the practice nurse, through the diabetes educators, through the physiotherapists, through the podiatrists and others, and that has been taken away. What has been offered in the place of this funding? A $30 million pilot program. They call it a ‘pilot program’ which will take not one year but three years—maybe four years, according to the minister’s press release of last Friday. That is not good enough. That money has been reduced. I draw this to the attention of all senators and members and also members of the public who may have an interest—and there are many out there who do. They have been swindled.
The government have not made any commitment to say, ‘Yes, that money was directed and will be allocated to people with diabetes.’ In her media release Ms Roxon said that that money will be affecting the forward estimates. That means the money will go into a big black hole in Canberra and will not be reallocated to people with diabetes for their care and attention. The government made a promise on the advance side of the federal election to try to get the votes of the people with diabetes all around this country. Whether it worked or not, I do not know, but maybe it did to some extent. They made that promise and then—bang—two days before World Diabetes Day, 14 November, they say it will be reduced. World Diabetes Day is in honour of the birthday of Frederick Banting, who, along with Charles Best, first conceived the idea which led to the discovery of insulin in 1922. World Diabetes Day is a very important day. Judi Moylan is doing a great job as chairman of the Parliamentary Diabetes Support Group, and I am proud to say that we have had an influence on this government and on the former government. We met with Alexander Downer and we encouraged the government at the time to support the UN effort to get a world diabetes day, and we succeeded. We got a UN General Assembly resolution in support of having diabetes considered as one of the key priorities around the world. That is a very key achievement and I am very thankful for that. But this government has not responded in kind and it is a great disappointment.
At this point, I want to acknowledge the great work of Judi Moylan as chairman of that group. It is a bipartisan group, with Labor and Liberal members. As an executive member of that group I am very pleased to acknowledge my colleagues who work on the Parliamentary Diabetes Support Group. They do a great job and will continue to support the people of Australia who have diabetes and their families. I have already acknowledged the fantastic work of Professor Paul Zimmet. He advocates for people with diabetes all around the globe—not just in Australia—and is an expert in the field of obesity and diabetes.
It is important that this government acknowledge that we are now living in an obesogenic environment. One-off initiatives, one-off task forces and one-off pilot programs—whether they be $30 million or otherwise—are simply not good enough. We need a total paradigm shift in this country in supporting health prevention measures. I am pleased to say that this bill goes some way to starting that effort and making a difference.
The issues include: advertising to children; getting the healthy eating message out; nutritional labelling on restaurant menus and processed foods; and saturated fats, trans fats, salt and sugar, particularly in processed foods. We also need a healthier food supply—particularly, obviously, for our Indigenous communities. I went to a Transplant Australia breakfast this morning addressing the impact of the food supply on Indigenous communities around Australia, and I commend them on that. The situation is absolutely tragic. We need to make healthier food more affordable and accessible for not just our Indigenous communities but all Australians. We need to build an environment that is not so obesogenic and that is friendly to walking, riding and other regular exercise. We can make a difference. In that regard, Greg Johnson, chair of the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance and Acting CEO of Diabetes Australia, wrote a very good letter to the editor which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald a few weeks ago. I commend him for that, although I would like to see the diabetes community be more proactive in their advocacy for people with diabetes around this country. There is still a lot more work to do.
There is action happening on the international front on non-communicable diseases. That is encouraging news. As we speak, a meeting is occurring in Beijing with representatives of the International Diabetes Federation. They are doing good work in advocating for UN support and a resolution to encourage all countries to say, ‘Yes, communicable and infectious diseases are important and we need to address them, but non-communicable and chronic diseases are a burden that need to be borne by all of us, a burden that we need to share.’ We need to address the epidemic all around the world. It is not just happening in Australia and the Western world; it is happening in India, China and many parts of the Third World. There will be a special conference in September 2011—and I hope that Australia and the Australian government will play its part—advocating for proactivity and action to promote healthy lifestyles all around the world.
We want this country to lead by example. I was saddened by the decision last Friday which confirmed that this government is in a policy paralysis. It confirmed that we are in limbo in terms of plans for the future for addressing chronic disease, whether it be diabetes, heart disease, cancer or any chronic other disease. Certainly the diabetes community thinks that this government is sitting on its hands and is in limbo. There will be a special policy forum this Thursday and Friday night in Canberra hosted by Diabetes Australia. I congratulate them for that; that is a good initiative. They need to do that more often—to advocate and develop policies that will promote disease prevention and healthy lifestyles all around Australia. I want to commend and thank Peter Dutton, Andrew Southcott and Andrew Laming in the House of Representatives, and Connie Fierravanti-Wells in the Senate, who are doing a great job to promote these important issues. On behalf of many in this great country of ours, I call on the government to rethink its priorities and to put action behind its words. It let the people of Australia down last Friday with that shocking, disgraceful decision to can a promised $450 million diabetes initiative. That will now not be delivered. We are all scratching our heads and wondering what we will get next from this government.
This bill has a lot of merit. It reflects what I called for in part of my 10-point plan released in December 2006. Interestingly, the first point of that plan was the recommendation to classify obesity as a national health priority. The government accepted that prior to the 2007 election, for which I am very thankful, but there is a lot more work to do in this space. I draw those points to the attention of the government and I hope that those matters will be addressed as a matter of urgency. I thank the Senate.