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Thursday, 18 June 2009
Page: 3752

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Senator CORMANN» (4:04 PM) —Senator Brown will not be surprised to hear me say that Liberal and National Party senators are of the view that individual and parental responsibility is the key component to good family health. We do not support the measures proposed in the Protecting Children from Junk Food Advertising (Broadcasting Amendment) Bill 2008 and we will not be supporting it. In government we did initiate a range of healthy-eating and lifestyle programs which were aimed at enabling families to make better informed choices, and in the lead-up to the 2007 election we announced that we would establish a new ABC children’s TV channel that would provide children’s age appropriate content without advertising as another option for parents. We are very pleased to see that the Rudd government has decided to follow our lead on this, picking up on this very good idea and going ahead with it.

We do take the issue of children’s health very seriously. However, we do not believe that simply banning junk food advertising is the silver bullet that some people want us to believe it is. It is not a silver bullet to stop increasing rates of childhood «obesity» . It is just too simplistic to suggest that it is. What we do need, however, is to equip families with the information and support to make positive health and lifestyle choices. That is a far better long-term solution to these issues than just pursuing what we consider to be a nanny state approach to the issue.

This bill seeks to ban junk food advertising for children; yet, what is conveniently ignored by those promoting this approach is the fact that such a ban would in fact be ineffective. In «Quebec» and Sweden, food advertising to children was banned 25 years and 12 years ago respectively without any appreciable impact on «obesity» rates. The issues surrounding childhood «obesity» are complex and cannot be addressed by a single simplistic response such as banning advertisements.

I would also point out that reviews of the Children’s Television Standards and the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, both of which impose obligations on broadcasters regarding advertising during children’s viewing times, have been conducted in recent years, and I understand that the final version of the revised Children’s Television Standards are due to be gazetted in mid-2009. I am sure that senators would be aware of the extensive process that the Australian Communications and Media Authority went through in reviewing children’s television standards, and of course there are a whole range of restrictions and regulatory arrangements around what kind of advertising can occur in which time periods. For example, advertisements are prohibited in what are called P periods under the Children’s Television Standards. P periods are the periods between 7 am and 4.30 pm Mondays to Fridays. Advertisements are limited to five minutes in any 30-minute C period. During any 30 minutes of a C period, a licensee may broadcast the same advertisement no more than twice. Advertisements must not be designed to put undue pressure on children to ask their parents or other people to purchase an advertised product or service. There is a series of other regulatory restrictions that I encourage senators to review at their leisure.

Suffice to say that the main point that the opposition want to place on the record is that we think the best way to ensure healthy eating habits for children is to rely on individual and parent responsibility and to support families in whatever way we can to make well-informed choices. With those few comments, I place on record that the opposition will not be supporting this bill.