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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4972


Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (20:51): I am very, very pleased indeed to be able to support the motion that is before us this evening, both in terms of the significance of this as a public health issue and also in terms of family allergies and friends' allergies. Certainly that has been a consistent theme through the discussion of this motion this evening. We know that anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction and it is potentially life threatening; although, the incidents of fatalities in Australia as a result of anaphylaxis are happily still relatively rare. However, the incidents of anaphylaxis is obviously on the increase, so the risk of potentially life-threatening consequences from it is inevitably also on the increase.

Anaphylaxis obviously requires emergency attention and early medical treatment and can affect a range of different body systems—for instance, the skin and respiratory systems. We also know that anaphylaxis takes place within a relatively short period of time after exposure to the relevant trigger—within 20 minutes or two hours. So for parents with young children who are at school or who are in unfamiliar environments and exposed to different foodstuffs or to different allergens, it is an ongoing source of concern.

Indeed, it also a worry for people who are contemplating having children or those who are currently pregnant, because family history of allergic reaction clearly has a significant impact upon the propensity for your offspring to have an anaphylactic response or to have an allergic reaction of any kind. If a person or their partner has an allergy, the chance of the child of that relationship developing an allergy is around 30 per cent, which is an extraordinary figure, and it goes up to between 40 per cent and 60 per cent in the event that both parents have a history of allergic reactions.

The significance of the motion this evening cannot be overstated. Indeed, allergies, particularly food allergies, have become a significant public health concern in many developed countries. In particular, Australia and New Zealand have amongst the highest prevalence of allergic reaction disorders in the developed world. So we are living in a region where this is increasingly becoming of significance—and to a population of young people who are increasingly exposed to the prospect of allergic reaction.

Earlier this evening we heard speakers in this debate talk about the Access Economics report of 2007, which—we understand from discussions earlier—estimated that around 4.1 million Australians had at least one allergic disease. That is an incredible figure in a population of our size. Around 78 per cent of those with allergies were aged between 15 and 64, so even though we are increasingly concerned about the incidence of allergies amongst very young children, it is the case that the bulk of those people who are exposed to allergic reaction are between 15 and 64 years.

The report that I mentioned earlier considered the impacts of an ageing Australian population and, based on current trends, it is estimated that there will be a 70 per cent increase in the number of Australians with allergy from 4.1 million in 2007 to 7.68 million by 2050—that is more than one in four Australians who are likely to be exposed. So the consequences for quality of life for those who are exposed to allergic reaction and, particularly given the motion before us, the extreme effects of allergic reaction, namely anaphylaxis, are significant. They inevitably have consequences for the quality of life for individuals and their families, particularly in cases where small children are concerned. Family holidays, going to school and the very independence of individuals and families are affected significantly by anaphylaxis and allergies.

The consequences from a public health perspective for our economy are significant. The consequences in terms of health costs and the economic costs associated with productivity are clearly very significant, so it is timely that this resolution come before us tonight. I encourage others to take note of the resolution and, particularly for some of our piecemeal responses at a state and territory level, for those in a position to influence policy development to consider this resolution and the deliberations of the House. (Time expired)