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Transcript of policy launch: Parliament House, Canberra, Monday 13 October 2003: Launch of Labor’s policy to tackle obesity.

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Senator Kate Lundy

Senator for the Australian Capital Territory Shadow Minister for the Arts, Sport, and Information Technology



Subjects: Launch of Labor’s policy to tackle obesity

MACKLIN: Thank you all very much for coming along. I’m very pleased to be here this morning with my colleagues, Senator Kate Lundy, Julia Gillard and Senator Collins to announce this terrific new policy tackling obesity and promoting community wellbeing.

We all know what a serious problem obesity is in Australia and the concerns are that the prevalence of obesity is just getting worse and worse. There are so many Australians that are already overweight. Many of them are in fact worse than overweight, they are obese. And it requires concerted action on behalf of a range of different portfolios at the Commonwealth level to really address this very serious health problem. That’s why we’ve come together to release this policy today. Sport and Recreation - physical activity - of course we know is extremely important to addressing obesity and improving health, education and of course, Jacinta’s responsibility, is in looking after children.

There are in fact 3.3 million Australians who are estimated to be obese - 3.3 million Australians. That is a very serious problem and we know it starts very early. The problems that lead to obesity in adults would start early in childhood. So a number of the initiatives that we are announcing here today are all about making sure we address this problem early.

This policy is a $25 million policy and it has two major strategies. One is a community wellbeing strategy, which is all about encouraging Australians to be more active. The second is a national policy to address obesity and that policy has a number of strategies. It’s all about education, improving access to information, making sure that children in particular get the information that they need to eat well, to be active so that we address this very serious health problem. So it’s very exciting to be here.

It is in fact National Nutrition Week, it’s Health and Physical Education Week and the launch this policy at the start of these weeks shows Labor’s commitment to addressing a very serious health problem in this country.

LUNDY: The Wellbeing Fund, the Community Wellbeing Fund is a $15 million component of the $25 million Labor has committed this morning to address obesity and improve community wellbeing.

The Wellbeing fund brings together those important recreational portfolios with health and for the first time recognises that if we’re going to effectively address obesity and improve health and wellbeing it needs to be a multi-portfolio exercise. The Wellbeing fund will be supporting the employment of people in communities to facilitate more physical activity and getting more people involved in doing something physically active and getting some exercise.

We know that physical activity and exercise is a key element in a healthy lifestyle and is an essential part of what will help reduce obesity rates across Australia. The Wellbeing Fund is designed in that way and that it is because Labor found during our policy consultations that many communities just can’t support the employment of people to do these things. Some of them may have facilities, they have people wanting to do things, but they need social infrastructure, they need people on the ground to be able to help them to do it. So that’s what this fund is all about. So the $15 million Community Wellbeing Fund is designed to help people get more active where they really want to and where it is most needed around Australia.

JOURNALIST: Will that be organised through schools?

LUNDY: It will be organised through communities themselves and being a fund, community organisations will be able to apply for support and funding under a future Labor Government.

GILLARD: One of the reasons there are a number of Shadow Ministers here is that this strategy crosses portfolios and I congratulate Kate on leading the development of it across health, education, sport and recreation and children.

Of course, the best sort of health policy is the policy that avoids or prevents a problem and we need to act now if we are to prevent issues associated with obesity becoming the major health issue over the next ten, twenty, thirty years.

The statistics show us that an obese child has a 25-50 per cent chance of becoming an obese adult. And even more worryingly, an obese adolescent has a 78 per cent chance of becoming an obese adult. And obesity in adulthood is associated with all sorts of health problems and most particularly tied to diabetes. So this strategy is aimed at preventing the problems before they occur.

In 1997 the National Health and Medical Research Council issued a strategy about obesity calling on the Government to act. As usual in the health area,

there was a failure of national leadership by the Howard Government. Nothing has been done. This strategy gets in and shows how it can be done. It creates a National Obesity Action Alliance and brings together the Commonwealth and the States and people with expertise in these issues to drive this strategy and to provide the national leadership which is both grievously missing at the moment. It also helps with the education issue both through the creation of a national nutrition, educational framework which

would be a framework to provide information to people who work with children or parent the children as well as to children themselves on healthy eating and comes with an Active Life national advertising strategy to promote healthy eating and health messages. It also comes with additional media regulation so that we have an ability to make sure that children aren’t getting bad messages about health and eating when watching television during children’s viewing hours.

JOURNALIST: So you would tell commercial televisions that they wouldn’t be able to run ads for fast food companies etcetera during children’s viewing hours?

GILLARD: Already, advertisers have stepped in and engaged in self-regulation on children’s viewing hours and what should be shown about food during those times. This builds on that approach by saying that there must be guidelines that are appropriate and community agreed as to what should be able to be shown during children’s viewing time. And of course it comes with regulation and enforcement measures if advertisers don’t abide by the guidelines. But I would note to date that the advertising industry has been responding, indeed it’s been calling on the Howard Government to be a partner in an advertising campaign to get healthy eating messages to children and the Howard Government has been refusing to act and refusing to show the national leadership required.

JOURNALIST: But isn’t it ultimately the problem of parents not better educating their children?

LUNDY: The feeling that Labor recognises is that this problem can only be tackled if everybody is involved. The Government has a strong role to play and a future Labor Government has made this very strong $25 million

commitment. But parents are involved and many of the strategies in the National Obesity Strategy and the Wellbeing Fund will be designed to help parents make better decisions about their own nutrition, their children’s nutrition and the need for increased physical exercise for young people in this

country. So yes, parents do play an important role but a future Labor Government will be there to support parents to help them make the right decision.

JOURNALIST: Has children’s sport become too expensive?

LUNDY: Sport is one of the ways in which children can get physical exercise. And obviously it’s a crucial part of this strategy on how we do get young people active. I think there are a large number of issues that prevent

young people playing sport, including the fact that under the Howard Government many of the grassroots participation programs have been wound back. That is a problem, it has impacted negatively on participation rates of people playing sport, particularly children in the country. And we think that this policy, through the Wellbeing Fund and through future policies related to sport and recreation that Labor will be able to try and turn that trend around. It is a problem and it is expensive for community organisations and parents who just don’t have the funds necessary to fund increasingly expensive sport.


26 September 2003 Media contact: Adina Cirson - (02) 6277 3334 or 0418 488 295