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Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Page: 789


Dr SOUTHCOTT (Boothby) (15:51): I am pleased to speak on this MPI which relates to preventive health. When we think about preventive health, there are lots of different elements, but the three really big ones are: tobacco, alcohol and obesity. I want to talk a little bit about Australia's record in tobacco control and the Liberal Party's record in tobacco control. When you look at those three, our results in tobacco control have been outstanding—we really lead the world—and there have largely been bipartisan efforts in that.

In 1966 Sir Robert Menzies introduced a voluntary tobacco advertising code. In 1976 the Fraser government introduced the first ban on advertising tobacco products on TV and radio. In 1992, in opposition, the Liberal Party supported a ban on tobacco advertising, and in 1997, Michael Wooldridge, as health minister, introduced the first-ever national advertising campaign against smoking and spent, at that time, $7 million. It was well researched, it was a comprehensive strategy and it has been a large part of why we have seen such dramatic results in this area.

When we moved to the new tax system we reformed tobacco excise, moving away from a weight basis to a per stick excise—something which was welcomed by all the health groups. The Prime Minister, as then health minister, introduced the first graphic health warnings on tobacco in 2006. In opposition, it was the current health minister, the member for Dickson, who proposed an increase in tobacco excise in the 2009 budget reply speech. When we had the debate about plain paper packaging and increasing the size of graphic health warnings, those changes were supported by the then opposition.

And what have we seen? We have seen a fall in smoking rates from 21.8 per cent in 1998 down to 16.6 per cent by 2007. What we have seen over the almost 20 years from 1989 to 2007 were declines in smoking rates in Australia of 40 per cent for men and 44 per cent for women. These were amongst the biggest falls anywhere in the world, and for women were the biggest falls in the OECD.

There are lots of other parts of preventative health that we could talk about. Immunisation: one of the proud achievements of the Howard government was getting immunisation rates back up to where they should be—seeing immunisation rates for one-, two- and five-year-olds of over 90 per cent. We did it with incentives for GPs and we did it working with the divisions of general practice.

Prior to the election we made a number of commitments which relate to this area. The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, a program which was first established by Minister Michael Wooldridge in 1996, is coming up for its 20th anniversary. We made a commitment at the election to expand the program, with increased screening for people aged 50 to 74. Diabetes: over the last 20 years we have seen the incidence of diabetes double in Australia. We have announced the National Diabetes Strategy and we also have the work which is being done by McKinsey and some of the Medicare Locals, looking at better coordinated care and how we can get better results for people with diabetes. As the Minister for Health said, medical research is an important issue for us. We have said that this will be quarantined from any inefficiencies found in government, and we have also announced $200 million in dementia related research.

When you look at the area of alcohol, the government had reports going back to 2009 which actually identified brief interventions by primary-care physicians to reduce hazardous alcohol consumption as something which was still an untapped opportunity in Australia. It is not something that they have addressed, and that is actually something which I think does show great promise—just one, two or three sessions with a GP costs little but leads to good results.

But then we come to the area where we are not doing well, the area of obesity and overweight. Sixty-three per cent of adults are now obese or overweight, and that is well up. But we had Kevin Rudd's 'war on obesity' and we had national partnership agreements which measured the amount of fruit and vegetables eaten and the amount of exercise et cetera and, actually, we have gone backwards. (Time expired)