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Thursday, 22 October 2009
Page: 10789

Mr FARMER (10:09 AM) —I also stand to support the Australian National Preventive Health Agency Bill 2009. This is a major issue in relation to the health of the nation and to the expenses that are incurred by governments right across the board—whether they be local councils or state or federal governments—in the health portfolio. It has been estimated that around $10 billion is used each year to supplement the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. A lot of the expenses relating to private and public health right across the board could be alleviated through a significant presence of the sports portfolio and a recognition of the connection between sport and other physical activity and the various lifestyle diseases that we suffer from. There is cancer, heart disease, diabetes and the list goes on. Every single thing that involves the human body can be alleviated through physical activity and through the support of physical activity. I, together with a number of the members of the government, would like to call for a greater emphasis on the sports portfolio in relation to preventative medicine.

I am very happy to speak on the Australian National Preventive Health Agency Bill 2009 because it is only through preventative health measures that we will cut down on the numbers on waiting lists for our public hospital system, create a much healthier nation and keep people out of nursing homes. It was estimated by the This is Your Life program a number of years ago that I personally had raised over $2 million for various worthwhile charitable causes. A number of those causes related to heart disease and a number to diabetes et cetera. There have been so many different causes that I find it difficult to recall them all at this point in time. Nevertheless, I have done that because I truly and honestly believe that the issue needs a two-pronged approach: one, we need significant investment in our health portfolio; and, two, we need awareness by each and every Australian that they need to take responsibility for their own lives. That means taking responsibility for every single thing that they consume and taking responsibility for their lifestyle. Events such as the Walk to Work Day and the various sporting and activity programs that are set up for youth, for our children and for many adults as well need to be applauded and supported.

One thing I mentioned to the previous government was that I was little disappointed that a lot of federal funding, and indeed a lot of state funding, goes into the high end of sport. That is often because of the glamour and because it is covered on TV and throughout the media quite extensively. However, I believe that the true benefits to this nation will come through financial support for the junior sports. There are a number of mums and dads out there who are coaches and who could be encouraged to complete St John’s Ambulance courses and to be the on-field representatives of St John’s Ambulance in the event that anybody is hurt or injured during the course of playing sport. Others could take up coaching and then encourage their children and other children to participate in sport. Once again, it is about prevention and it is about creating a greater volume of activity amongst our younger people so that they can move with a healthier lifestyle from the primary years into their secondary years and then through to adulthood. This means there is a significant role for those at the senior level too.

In my own electorate of Macarthur a number of surveys on mental health patients were done by the area health service. They discovered that, if they could get mental health patients in Waratah House and other venues around Western Sydney to participate in a regular physical activity program, (1) they could cut down on the amount of medication needed, (2) they could cut down on the amount of violence perpetrated by patients through the frustration they felt at being confined in these places and (3) patients could recover much more quickly from a number of the ailments they were suffering as a result of their mental health condition and return to a relatively normal lifestyle. That means they could return home to their families and even get back into the workforce. That is all through physical activity in a regular physical activity program.

The same organisation, Western Sydney Area Health Service, have also done numerous tests and run pilot programs for the elderly in nursing homes about being physically active. They found that through that physical activity they were able to stave off a lot of the problems of an ageing lifestyle and consequently stay out of the hospital system for much longer, cut down on medication and be of greater worth to both their community and their families—and to themselves.

As we live longer lives, it is most important that we lead healthier lives as well, and it is only through preventative health that we can do that. I call on the government to please consider the sport portfolio as a major portfolio in the prevention of a number of the health problems that we experience in Australia today. I encourage all of the other members who will be speaking in this debate to be advocates for preventative health out there in the wider community. I would like to thank the government for giving us all the opportunity to speak on this bill and for putting this bill forward.