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Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Page: 1416

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (10:14 AM) —This is a new dialogue. We are setting up this agency and it is basically going to tell Australians what they can eat, what they can drink and how they should conduct their lives. For some people this is a nanny state gone absolutely crazy. That may be the view of some people out in the community, but the reality is it is a new dialogue that must be had with the community and we are going to have to change community attitudes. So in that respect I support what Senator Xenophon is saying. I really do think that for full openness and transparency we really do want public engagement and public involvement and, if we are going to have a process, that the agency be open to scrutiny. This is probably the most open to scrutiny that we can have.

I have been the opposition spokesperson on health and ageing in the Senate and over time, in preparation for various estimates, I have delved through the many lists of reports that have been commissioned by the government in the preventative health space. One of the things that really concerns me is that when you go through the list of reports that have been tendered—some subject to tender, some not subject to tender—there are a long list of reports that have been commissioned from consultants that have not been released and that are not available in the public arena in relation to preventative health. I have touched on this in estimates, and it really does concern me. It concerns me even more in the context of my previous comments about the government’s reasons for refusing to support the coalition’s strong push to have industry representation and consumer health organisations on there. This is going to affect many facets of the daily lives of Australians, and I really do think that we should be fully open, fully transparent about this organisation. We need to know what sort of advice is being given and why that advice may or may not be followed in the context of what this agency is going to recommend to government. On that basis we will be supporting Senator Xenophon’s amendment.

I do want to ask the minister some questions. This first question touches on this issue of transparency. In the financial impact statement there is a reference to $102 million for national level social marketing campaigns targeting obesity and smoking. I ask the minister: why do these social marketing campaigns not relate to other matters? Ought they not also relate to the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition, minimising the harmful drinking of alcohol and discouraging substance abuse, for example?

The other question I ask is: why has social marketing not been defined? The government needs to provide clarification as to what the scope of social marketing is. Research has shown that social marketing campaigns carried out in isolation are inadequate in influencing behavioural change and it is important that the agency, in terms of its capacity to operate and integrate with other measures, is working collaboratively with industry. Particularly in light of the comments I made earlier about consumer health organisations and the industry involvement, if they are not going to be represented on the advisory council, in fairness Australians should know what advice is being provided to government and the response, particularly in relation to those two very important measures.