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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 669


Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (11:12): I congratulate the member for Hasluck for bringing this motion to the parliament. I have acknowledged the role that he is set to play in the parliament in replacing Judi Moylan as convener of the parliamentary friends of diabetes. I know that he is totally committed to this cause. I know that he is a person who really believes that these serious health issues need to be addressed. In doing so, I would like to support the facts and what he has put to the House today

I would like to touch on a different aspect of this debate, that which relates to obesity. Obesity is probably the No. 1 cause of type 1 diabetes and is an issue that we as a nation need to address. In a previous parliament, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing did an inquiry into obesity. We were presented with information about the links between obesity and diabetes, and a series of recommendations were put in place. It makes me quite sad that the current government is overseeing a change in policy—a change in direction—that I believe could actually lead to an increase in the level of diabetes in our society. Over the last couple of weeks we have heard that the health star food rating system, which was a tool developed by all the states and the Commonwealth to address the really important issue of obesity, has been taken down. It is particularly worrying when ones looks at the influence that I believe companies that promote unhealthy eating have had in relation to the taking down of this website.

I hope that Assistant Minister Fiona Nash will address these decisions since her former chief of staff is married to the director of the company which handles Cadbury, Kraft and—I think—Oreo and since the products made under these brands are not noted for their contribution to good health. Governments must show leadership. When they show leadership, sometimes they have to make hard decisions. Sometimes they make decisions which do not necessarily please their friends outside the parliament. It is important that both sides of the House promote healthy eating and healthy lifestyles. Unfortunately, there has been a big move away from doing so with the decision to remove the health star rating system, which was up for, I think, only one day. It provided information to people so that they could choose to eat healthily—and, by choosing to eat healthily, they can address the issue of obesity. One thing that can really help control type II diabetes is making sure that you eat a healthy diet: cut down on your sugars and cut down on your fats. You can do this by knowing what is in the food you eat. The question of good diet is very important to this motion.

The National Preventive Health Agency, which was designing programs to address diabetes and undertaking studies into the impact of diet and its relationship with diabetes, has now been abandoned by the government. The agency, which was a preventative health tool, has—like the health star rating website—gone. It is no longer in place. Let us face it: obesity, because of its relationship to diabetes, is one of the greatest medical challenges facing our country today. Obesity is linked not only to diabetes but also to forms of cancer. We need to adopt a similar approach to the extremely healthy approach that the previous government adopted in tackling smoking. The funding of advertisements to address smoking was very important to the previous government's policy.

There needs to be a three-pronged approach to diabetes: prevention, early detection and—subsequently—early intervention. There needs to be a situation in which funding for health is not cut, but the new Minister for Health is promoting the cutting of health funding and the increasing of the cost of health care to Australians. If people have to pay more to go to see the doctor and to access the diabetes programs which are available through their GPs, a very poor situation is going to develop. People's health is going to deteriorate, and obesity and diabetes rates are going to increase.

I implore the Minister for Health to move away from his philosophy and policies of cutting and implementing taxes on Australian people and instead to really look at the important issues around diabetes. When the Labor government were in power they invested $872 million for a six-year period, commencing 2009-2010, under the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health. That was a very important commitment by government. I implore those on the other side to fight very hard to see that that continues. The member for Hasluck talked about investment in diabetes pumps. That was championed by Labor when they were in government, along with a number of key initiatives in that area.

The thing that really worries me is the impact that obesity and diabetes will have on the morbidity and mortality rates of Australians. We are facing a threat where the next generation could be the first generation in Australia's history to actually die at a younger age than their parents. To a large extent, that is contributed to by lifestyle issues such as obesity. Unless education becomes a very important part of the way that we address diabetes and unless preventative health is one of those key factors, then the level of diabetes in our community will continue to increase.

My message to the Minister for Health is: talk to assistant minister Fiona Nash and get the healthy star rating system back on the web so that people can make decisions about the types of foods they eat; move away from your decision to abandon the National Preventative Health Agency; do not tax Australian people to visit their GP; and encourage them to get the kind of treatment and help that they need.