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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 2071


Mr PASIN (Barker) (12:54): I never met a meal I did not like. I grew up in a household where the preparation of good food and its consumption was at the bedrock of our cultural behaviours. That was until I turned 13. When I turned 13, my older sibling introduced to our family a significant other. She was slimmer than members of our family and it was only 12 months later that I came to understand why it was that she was so slim. So I speak from a unique perspective today because I have seen firsthand the impact of eating disorders not just on individuals, which others have spoken so well about in this place today, but on partners. Little is said about these insidious diseases, but even less is said about the impact on extended familial relationships, particularly on partners.

I met my partner many years later and, in a cruel twist of fate, she too suffered from issues with body image. So, whilst I watched my brother deal with the consequences of his relationship and his partner's illness, I then had to live it myself. A strange form of pain comes from walking with someone physically and metaphorically on the journey of life and thinking to yourself: 'Do people think that she's so thin because I ate all the food?'

I do not wish to be flippant about this issue. The real issue here is the unrealistic betrayal of body image in the media. Why we need to take some of the most attractive people on earth and airbrush them does not stand to reason. The media plays its role as well. I was disappointed to see during the last federal election campaign that, particularly in the seat of Adelaide, the media—and I apportion no blame to our opponents—seemed to want to frame the debate on a beauty contest between the Liberal candidate and the now member for Adelaide, which was a particularly unfair way of going about it.

It is trite to say that as members of parliament we need to take a lead role on this issue. In this, as in all things, I think members of parliament need to be citizens of high regard. In this way I acknowledge the very real and positive impact that Prime Minister Abbott has in this space. Whether he is riding, running or swimming, his actions lead by example. I acknowledge the important role that family has to play in this space. After all, it was my strong familial links that allowed us to get through our issues. I worry deeply about my young daughter and hope that she does not have to face the challenges that others in her family have.

I also take this opportunity to note an important deficiency in rural and regional Australia. I do not speak for all of rural and regional Australia but I do speak for the people of Barker. The electorate of Barker is 64,000 square kilometres and it has a population of 100,000 people. We do not have a single resident psychiatrist. If we are truly to combat these insidious diseases we need, at least, to recognise these psychiatric disorders and develop face-to-face trusted therapeutic relationships, and those are only achieved by one-on-one intervention by trained medical health professionals. It saddens me that, in an electorate as rich and as diverse as mine, we still do not have a resident psychiatrist operating in the region.

As with all grants and programs, the government will be examining this program over the next year. Our government are committed to a healthier Australia. It is disappointing that the government inherited a parlous and unsustainable budget, due to the mismanagement of others. It saddens me that the legacy of this debt might impact on our ability to deal with this very real issue. The government are focusing on ensuring that Australians are not faced with the burden of high intergenerational debt that was left to them by Labor. The best support and/or policy that the government can give to Australians and Australian youth, in particular, is a strong and prosperous economy that provides job opportunities in a budget that is under control.