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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 674


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (11:36): Diabetes affects about 1.7 million Australians and over two million Australians have pre-diabetes and are at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare states that over 70 per cent of Australian adults aged 15 and over do little or no exercise; four million Australians are obese; 10 million Australians are overweight; and Indigenous children are twice as likely as non-Indigenous children to be overweight.

This is a big issue for my electorate. I was having discussions with representatives of the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local earlier last week to discuss this issue to see what can be undertaken in my area to address the challenge of diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes. An Ipswich study conducted by the University of Queensland's Healthy Communities Research Centre at the Ipswich campus has been undertaking work in this space, and I commend them for the work that they have been doing.

As shadow minister for Indigenous affairs, I am particularly concerned at the incidence of diabetes amongst Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples. ABS results from 2012-13 show that eight per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country report to have diabetes and/or high sugar levels in their blood or urine. This means that one in 12 of Australia's first peoples are suffering from diabetes. Indigenous females are significantly more likely to have diabetes—10 per cent compared to seven per cent of Indigenous males.

The former federal Labor government listened to local members, particularly to people like myself, and we initiated things like the insulin pumps subsidy program in 2008. The subsidies were particularly important and were well received by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Diabetes Australia and by constituents such Phoenix Weaver and Chloe Shaw in my electorate. We also did important things like the Healthy Kids Check for four-year-olds and the Get Set 4 Life—Habits for Healthy Kids Guide, the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program has also made a big impact in my electorate—for example, in Lowood State Primary School and Ipswich West State School, where they promote successful and healthy eating and diet amongst young people. Exercise is also vital to prevent disease, and that is why the former federal Labor government introduced the Active After-school Communities program.

It is so wrong, unhelpful and scandalous what the chief of staff and assistant health minister has done in relation to this space. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was the minister for health and I was her parliamentary secretary, we negotiated a star-rating system for packaged and processed foods in this country. We have the final communique of the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation, which I chaired on 14 June 2013. I remember how happy CHOICEand the public health advocates were as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I did the press conference and issued that press release on 14 June.

In the press release of 14 June there was no mention of the need for a cost benefit analysis or of the two years voluntarily carrying out the scheme across the country. The health ministers across the country, and the states and territories agreed that if it was not widespread there would be mandatory regulation across this space. What we have seen from this government is: not listening to health advocates; not concerned about the health, exercise and diet of Australians; but listening to the lobbyists from the Food and Grocery Council. We know the star system will contribute to alleviating the burden of chronic disease, overweight and obesity which leads to type II diabetes. I will read from the final communique so that the assistant health minister might have regard to this. The final communique 14 June says:

Food regulation ministers noted that the system had significant potential to support consumers to make healthier food choices and acknowledged that FoPL is one tool in a suite of initiatives that will, in the long-term, contribute to alleviating the burden of chronic disease, overweight and obesity issues in Australia.

And of course will assist in relation to type II diabetes.

This is a retrograde step by the coalition. It is an absolute disgrace and scandal what they have done—putting up the front-of-pack labelling and taking it down at the behest of the Food and Grocery Council. There are a lot more questions that need to be put and certainly a lot more answers that the assistant health minister needs to give to the Senate and to the Australian public. I do not know how she sleeps at night in relation to this issue because what they are doing is exactly the opposite of what the public health in this country needs. If you are serious about type II diabetes, you will carry out the agreement from 4 June 2013—the communique—to help Australians health and welfare.

Debate adjourned.