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Thursday, 15 May 2014
Page: 3833

Mr DUTTON (DicksonMinister for Health and Minister for Sport) (09:09): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Today I introduce the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (Abolition) Bill 2014.

Repealing the Australian National Preventive Health Agency Act 2010 through this bill will abolish the Australian National Preventive Health Agency, ANPHA. This will streamline and better coordinate public health efforts that are currently spread across two agencies and remove duplication and unnecessary costs.

Australia has a long history in supporting people to make healthy lifestyle choices and providing health services that accompany good health outcomes. The coalition government continues to be committed to supporting an effective and responsive health system to deliver the health care services and measures needed by our population. An effective health system includes supporting preventive health and broader public health efforts.

The government also recognises that individuals need to take responsibility for lifestyle actions that affect their health. To fully support individuals and communities in implementing healthy lifestyle choices, the government will remain focused on ensuring information is available to inform health related behaviours. Essentially, the government wants to empower and inform people so that they are in the best position to take control of their own health and wellbeing.

In 2010, the former Labor government established ANPHA, with the primary focus on the prevention of the harmful use of alcohol, on obesity and on tobacco. In addition to this core focus and its role in advising the Commonwealth, ANPHA was established with a capacity to be directed by the state, territory and local governments to provide preventative health advice. However, since its inception, no jurisdiction has provided direct funding to the agency for its work on prevention. ANPHA has been solely funded by the Commonwealth, creating an additional separate agency with associated costs which continue to have overlapping responsibilities with the Commonwealth Department of Health.

The Commonwealth Department of Health has long played a critical national leadership and advisory role in supporting action in public health and in implementing preventive health measures, including activities to address chronic disease as well as significant reforms and initiatives on alcohol, tobacco and obesity.

There is currently a lack of clear demarcation of responsibilities between ANPHA the Department of Health. This current arrangement has led to a fragmented approach to preventive health and inefficiencies through duplication of administrative, policy and program functions between ANPHA and the department.

Under the bill transitional arrangements will enable the smooth, transparent and appropriate wind down of ANPHA and reintegration of functions to the Department of Health. Essential functions will be integrated with the department's existing work addressing alcohol, tobacco and obesity and in line with current policy and priorities, enabling a better coordinated and appropriate focus on key health priorities and the most efficient use of government funding.

Existing commitments to grants and social marketing efforts will continue. Ongoing analysis and advice, policy development and stakeholder an expert involvement on key health issues will continue. Action on alcohol, tobacco, obesity and chronic disease priorities will continue for this government.

We know tobacco smoking is the largest cause of preventable death and disease in our country. We remain committed to reducing smoking rates, including through national tobacco control measures and education programs.

We know obesity is an increasing public health problem with multiple consequences. We remain committed to supporting measures that encourage Australians to make informed lifestyle decisions to reduce the risk of chronic disease consequences. That is why this government is developing a national diabetes strategy.

We know harmful use of alcohol continues to occur, with associated short- and long-term risks. We remain committed to addressing these issues, including through education activities and by working with states and territories, stakeholders and communities.

The Australian government can continue its focus in these priority areas, without the need for a separately established and Commonwealth-funded agency.

Additional staffing and administrative costs have been required to run ANPHA for functions that can be effectively performed by the health portfolio's lead department. Ceasing ANPHA will ensure that there is no confusion about the Commonwealth government's responsibilities and action in public health and will ensure Commonwealth funding is not wasted on maintaining a separate agency. Abolishing ANPHA through this bill will enable a more coherent and streamlined approach to preventative health by the Commonwealth, facilitate stakeholder navigation and interactions with the government on related health issues, remove unnecessary overlap and inconsistencies, and produce administrative efficiencies and savings by reintegrating essential functions into the Department of Health.

Cross-government action will not be jeopardised as a result of abolishing ANPHA. ANPHA is currently solely Commonwealth funded, as I say, and there are established and transparent mechanisms available to progress national issues, including through the Standing Council on Health and its subcommittees.

New streamlined arrangements do not diminish the government's focus on preventive health or action on alcohol, obesity and tobacco. The bill will enable essential actions to continue under much more appropriate arrangements, without the inefficiencies, confusion and costs associated with maintaining separate agencies.

I reiterate that the Commonwealth government is committed to prevention. However, our commitment to preventative health is broader than just the work of the agency. The government's actions on preventative health will encompass efforts across the entire health system, including support of GPs and other primary healthcare services, the long-term sustainability of the Medicare benefits and pharmaceutical benefits systems, and supporting people to access preventative health and early detection services, such as immunisation and screening programs.

The previous coalition government has a strong record on supporting prevention measures and we will continue to build on this record. It was a previous coalition government who began the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program back in 2006. This government has committed funding to fully implement a biannual screening interval for all Australians aged 50 to 74. It was a previous coalition government who lifted the childhood immunisation rates dramatically from 52 per cent in 1995-96 to over 90 per cent. We are committed to improving those rates even further.

We are a government committed to improving the health of all Australians. I am pleased to be able to introduce the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (Abolition) Bill 2014 to achieve the aforementioned benefits and efficiencies in the health portfolio with flow-on benefits to the health sector, but most importantly to the Australian population more broadly.

Debate adjourned.

Ordered that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour.