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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1794

Mr IRONS (8:15 PM) —It is good to see the member for Bennelong contributing to this discussion tonight. The fact that he is an internationally recognised sportsperson means he can play an important role in taking activity out to the nation and also to the children of Australia. I congratulate him on his speech. I do rise to support and speak on the motion by the member for Shortland on obesity in Australia. Both the member and I are on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, which brought down the report Weighing it up: obesity in Australia, and I will quote from that report during the course of my speech.

In this place we are all prone to stacking on a few extra kilos and not looking after ourselves as well as we can. I remember my induction back here in 2007. The member for Parramatta spoke to the newbies, the class of 2007, about the dangers and the potential pitfalls that we all face, particularly with regard to lack of exercise. She spoke about her own efforts to maintain her health and the fact that she had managed after the first year to reduce her weight—I might not mention any figures—down to a level that was acceptable to her and, I guess, acceptable to most parliamentarians in this place. I do congratulate her on her presentation. It was one that stuck in my mind.

It is necessary to keep this issue in the public eye, and I congratulate the member for Shortland for her efforts to ensure that this continues to happen. It was interesting to note the number of members on the H&A committee who lost weight during the inquiry. I must make special mention of the member for Parkes who last time I spoke with him had lost 35 kilograms as a result of being on the committee and involved in the inquiry. He said I gave him inspiration when I lost 10 kilograms during the inquiry. We managed to reduce the weight that we had to put on those planes up to the islands to make sure that we had the weight distributed evenly.

Ms Hall —He weighed himself.

Mr IRONS —Thanks for that help there from the member for Shortland. The member for Parkes and I both enjoyed a recent jog around the bridges in Perth after another Health and Ageing committee hearing and we have both confirmed we will make sure that we maintain a level of activity.

Part of the problem of obesity in Australia is our lack of physical activity and our poor diet. The report that we did bears that as well. The statistics that the member for Bennelong was speaking about are probably a bit different to the ones that we had in our report. In 2009 the ABS released reports that said that 68 per cent of men and 55 per cent of women were either overweight or obese. I guess the big worry is that 7.2 per cent of children in our society were either overweight or obese as well. As the member has put forward in her section on obesity as a growing problem in Australia, it shows a growth of four per cent in men and six per cent in women since 1995. We all know that they rate everything on the BMI index. After losing 10 kilos I am still considered to be overweight according to the BMI index, so maybe that needs to be reviewed, because I do not feel overweight anymore.

One of the most controversial of the 20 recommendations that the report came out with was recommendation 5, which was with regard to bariatric surgery. That was one of the areas that we looked at during the inquiry. We recommended that bariatric surgery be put onto the Medicare list because most of the people who required it came from a lower socioeconomic environment and their health, diet and economic situation did not give them the same facilities or the same outs as people who lived in higher socioeconomic areas. It was interesting that the media focused only on that and suggested that we were giving away freebies. It was disappointing. That was an important recommendation within the report.

We also had interesting visits to Broken Hill, which is considered the most obese town in Australia. We also went out to Wilcannia and we saw some horrific examples of poor diet out there. It was disappointing to see that some of the people in the town were taking advantage of the locals when they should have been more concerned about their health. But congratulations to the member for Shortland on bringing this motion before the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms S Bird)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.