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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 672

Mr BOWEN (McMahon) (11:27): I congratulate the member for Hasluck for moving this motion, because diabetes is a very serious problem in Australia and it is a growing one. It is one of the emerging health epidemics we are dealing with in Australia and indeed around the world. I have a particular interest in this matter because my electorate is the diabetes capital of urban Australia. It is not something we are proud of, not an honour which we seek, but is something which we deal with and which we are challenging.

The Australian Diabetes Council shows that diabetes rates have been increasing in my electorate very dramatically. We have 2,298 people with type 1 diabetes in McMahon and 21,995 people with type 2 diabetes. What is even more concerning than those figures is the rate of increase. Fairfield, in my electorate, saw diabetes rates increase by 21.2 per cent over the last five years. In Smithfield the increase has been 30.37 per cent over five years—a 30 per cent increase in the prevalence of diabetes over the last five years.

Diabetes is a serious condition. It can lead to very serious and negative health outcomes. We can and do see an increase in heart disease, in kidney disease, in blindness, in high blood pressure and in dental problems for people suffering diabetes. We can and must do more about this. We can and must do more about it nationally and locally.

In my area, I hosted a diabetes awareness forum at Smithfield RSL last April. I was very pleased that Dr Nadia Tejani, who is a lecturer at the University of New South Wales and a consultant endocrinologist at Fairfield Hospital, came to that, as did Kristen Hazelwood, the Head of Education and Prevention at the Australian Diabetes Council. That was a well-attended forum, and we are doing other things: mail-outs and developing a diabetes plan for the local area. Fairfield City Council has a very proactive plan for improving the quality of exercise equipment in our parks to encourage more physical activity.

The honourable member for Forde, who spoke previously, referred to the importance of preventative health and healthy eating. He is right. I said before that there are things that we can do locally and nationally. We are not doing enough nationally. In fact, we are going backwards. We have seen the five-star rating program, which was negotiated by my honourable friend the member for Blair in office, taken down—in quite a scandalous set of arrangements—by the chief of staff to the Assistant Minister for Health. You cannot say to people, 'You've got to take more responsibility for what you eat and what you feed your children,' and then take down, hours after it went up on the website, something which was designed by the federal, state and territory governments to assist people make those decisions. There is a lot more to be heard about this particular scandal, because it goes to the very heart of the character of this government. A chief of staff with shareholdings in a food-lobbying firm was able, on behalf of the government of Australia, to give that direction with the authority of his minister.

I do not intend to belabour political points in this debate, but this is nothing short of a scandal. This is an appropriate debate in which to raise this issue, because diabetes is prevalent throughout our nation. It is particularly prevalent in rural areas with high Indigenous populations. That is something that we need to deal with. As I said, it is also very prevalent in my area of western Sydney, and it is growing very rapidly.

The other thing we can do is have more emphasis on preventative health, which the honourable member for Forde also referred to. Yet we see this government attacking preventative health by abolishing the preventative health council—again, a very backward step. The Minister for Health, the member for Dickson, talks about the importance of preventative health and personal responsibility but then we see this action by the government.

In the short time remaining I want to put on record that the government needs to tread carefully in relation to the drug januvia, which is being dealt with by the PBS. I do not intend to provide a prescriptive outcome here, but this is a drug which serves between 80,000 and 100,000 people. There are moves to delist this drug. I am sure the PBS has reasons for examining this issue but where you have between 80,000 and 100,000 people on a drug, I would urge this government to be very cautious about the steps taken. (Time expired)