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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3151


Ms BURKE (ChisholmDeputy Speaker) (10:02): Today I table a petition, signed by principal petitioner Mark Zirnsak, on behalf of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

The petition of certain citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House:

It is well recognised that breastfeeding is the best start in life for a baby, where breastfeeding is possible. This view is held by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF and continues to be confirmed by medical research. We believe that the decision to breastfeed or not is one that should be made by the mother in consultation with the best available advice from health care professionals. This decision should be free from the commercial influences of those seeking to sell infant formula.

World Health Organisation's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes aims to protect and promote breastfeeding and ensure that when breastmilk substitutes are necessary they are marketed, distributed and used appropriately. Furthermore we note that in Australia, the Federal Government has yet to fully implement WHO's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes which seeks to restrict the marketing activities of infant formula companies so that breastfeeding is not undermined. We note that the Federal Parliament Standing Committee on Health and Ageing recommended the implementation of the WHO Code in Australia in their 2007 report on breastfeeding.

Your petitioners therefore ask the House to fully implement World Health Organisation's International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions in law or by an enforceable code, to prevent unethical marketing by those seeking to sell infant formula.

from 302 citizens

Petition received.

Ms BURKE: The petition calls for the House of Representatives to fully implement the World Health Organisation's International Code of Marketing Breastmilk substitutes and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions in law or by an enforceable code to prevent unethical marketing by those seeking to sell infant formula.

This is a very worthwhile petition. It actually comes on the back of a phenomenal report, which the Deputy Speaker will be fully aware of: The best start: report on the inquiry into the health benefits of breastfeeding. That report was presented to this parliament in 2007. The actual recommendations of the report are picked up in the petition that I am submitting today. It has been signed by 302 people. The petition is looking at the World Health Organisation's code of marketing breastmilk substitutes. What is the code? It was adopted by the World Health Assembly back in 1981. Australia was one of the first signatories to the code but, tragically, Australia has not picked up all the recommendations.

The international code was prepared by the WHO and the United Nations after a process of wide consultation with governments, the infant-feeding industry, professional associations and NGOs. World health organisations and most professionals recommend that a minimum of six months breastfeeding is the way to go for most children. This will assist them throughout their lives with various health issues and will assist Australia's health dollar if more women actually breastfeed. The main points of the code are: no advertising of breastmilk substitutes; no free samples or low-cost supplements; no promotion of products through healthcare facilities; no labels idealising artificial feeding; and no contact between infant formula marketers and mothers. The marketers of these formulas, more or less, tell you that these formulas are better than breastmilk. There is actually nothing that is better than breastmilk. Not all women can breastfeed. It is actually a fairly difficult thing to get up and going. I was very lucky with both my children. It does help, particularly in the Australian context, with asthma and allergies and it has been proven time and time again, so I fully support this petition. One of the recommendations of the report of the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing said:

The committee recognises that the implementation of the WHO Code is a significant action but believes that if the Commonwealth Government wants to achieve the goal of 80 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of their baby's life the WHO Code needs to be implemented in Australia. The committee recommends accordingly.

The petition has been accredited by the Petitions Committee.

In the last couple of minutes I just want to put on the record my recognition of the contribution and my big thanks to Fred Nelson, who tragically passed away last week. It is Fred's funeral today and sadly I and many other members of the parliament cannot be there. Fred was one of the true believers. He was a long-standing member of many of my branches. He was a trade unionist for over 28 years. He served on the Trades and Labour Council as a trustee for many years and he will be greatly missed.