Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Australian National Preventive Health Agency Bill 2010
Consideration in Detail
Bill—by leave—taken as a whole.
by leave—I move opposition amendment (1):
(1) Part 1, page 2 (after line 12), after clause 2, insert:
2A Objects and functions
(1) The object of this Act is to establish an Agency to advise on and manage national preventive health programs.
(2) The function of the Agency and its CEO are to be interpreted in accordance with the following objects:
(a) to effectively monitor, evaluate and build evidence in relation to preventive health strategies;
(b) to facilitate a national health prevention research infrastructure;
(c) to generate new partnerships for workplace, community and school interventions;
(d) to assist in the development of the health prevention workforce; and
(e) to coordinate and implement a national approach to social marketing for preventive health programs.
This is a very straightforward amendment. It deals with the objects and functions of the agency. The Preventative Health Taskforce recommended the establishment of a National Preventive Health Agency. It also recommended an independent statutory body to give high-level advice to the government, but the government decided not to go down that path and have instead proposed that the agency be a part of government. That is why the coalition are seeking to introduce these amendments that address the objects and functions of the agency where currently there are none as defined in the legislation.
Very briefly, we say the function of the agency and its CEO are to be interpreted in accordance with five objects in relation to: preventative health strategies; prevention research infrastructure; new partnerships for workplace, community and school interventions; assisting in the development of the health prevention workforce; and coordinating and implementing a national approach to social marketing for preventative health programs. It is a very straightforward amendment and I encourage members to support it.
The government do not believe that this amendment is necessary, but we are prepared to support it with some small modifications. We are disappointed that the opposition rejected those sensible modifications that were designed to allow the legislation to be more workable. We have already agreed to support the objects clause as was initially proposed by the Greens in the Senate, and these changes were made following those negotiations with the Greens in the Senate. We agree the agency’s role is to support the development of evidence and data, and obviously that is the reason we are establishing the agency. I think this could have been made even better, but we are certainly not going to stand in the way of this amendment being agreed to.
The Greens also support the amendment for the reasons that have been outlined. We thought it up, and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then we thank the opposition for picking up on it. We will support it and I will not rehash the reasons for that.
Question agreed to.
I move opposition amendment (2):
(2) Clause 3, page 3 (after line 7), insert:
industry representative means a person who the Minister is satisfied has high level industry or commercial expertise in manufacture, distribution, or marketing of food or beverages, including of alcohol beverages.
This is a definition amendment and it relates to having an industry representative on the advisory council of the Preventive Health Agency. The opposition believe that to get outcomes in this area, it is necessary to work closely with all stakeholders. If you are talking about transfats, you have to work closely with the restaurants to get outcomes in this area. If you are talking about reducing harmful drinking, anti-social drinking or teenage drinking, you have to work closely with industry. The explanatory memorandum acknowledges this and says that some of the people who might be considered to be members of the advisory council could be industry representatives. I think the minister herself has said that members of the advisory council could be industry representatives. As there is no objection to having an industry representative on the advisory council, we think that it is a simple matter of making sure this is in legislation. There will be further amendments which relate to this as well, but this amendment is the definition of an industry representative. We believe it is important to have a close engagement with stakeholders. We encourage members to support this amendment.
As with the first amendment, we are prepared to support this amendment from the opposition. We recognise of course that industry and consumers should play an important role in the prevention agenda. Amendment (6), which is going to be moved, actually prescribes, as suggested by the opposition, the industry and consumer having nominated representatives. The only reason for our not doing that was not to have a long list of specific people that needed to be represented, but of course industry and consumers are major players in this discussion and we do not have any objection if the opposition is insistent on moving this amendment.
The Australian Greens oppose amendment (2), and for the same reasons, which I will give, we oppose (5) and (6). We believe that an industry representative on the advisory council is completely inappropriate and has the potential to undermine the important work of the agency. The marketing of alcohol and junk food is one of the key problems faced in promoting healthy lifestyles and acting on preventative health. Given that, as was said, there was nothing preventing the appointment of an industry representative if it were thought to be appropriate, we do not see the need to enshrine it and indeed believe that that would be counterproductive and ultimately would potentially undermine the work of the agency.
I apologise for the inconvenience to the chamber because it may not have been clear. Obviously if there were a number of members in the chamber who opposed this amendment, which was not part of our initial plans, and there were a vote called for we would not support the amendments; they are not our preference. But, as I have made clear to the opposition member, although he has not been particularly interested in taking up this offer, we are prepared for this parliament to work as it should, with members being able to raise and debate issues of concern.
We absolutely put on the record that the government regard the involvement of consumers and industry as important. We do not believe it is necessary for it to be prescribed in the legislation. If that were opposed by members of this House, we would be voting against the amendment, and I apologise if my earlier comments were misinterpreted. ‘Being prepared to live with’ is a different thing to ‘actively supporting’ if there is going to be a vote on this matter.
That the amendment (Dr Southcott’s) be agreed to.
I move opposition amendment (3):
(3) Clause 11, page 5 (lines 26 to 29), omit paragraph 11(f), substitute:
(f) to conduct educational, promotional and community awareness programs relating to preventive health, including:
(i) the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition;
(ii) reducing tobacco use;
(iii) minimising the harmful drinking of alcohol;
(iv) discouraging substance abuse; and
(v) reducing the incidence of obesity amongst Australians; and
This amendment relates to the functions of the Chief Executive Officer. The opposition proposes a different form of words because many things have been missed in this. For example, the Dietitians Association of Australia have made the very good point that we have no food and nutrition policy. In terms of the functions of the CEO, we are proposing that we have a definite reference to the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition. We are proposing that there be a focus on reducing tobacco use. We are proposing a minimising of the harmful drinking of alcohol. We are proposing that there be a focus on discouraging substance abuse and also a focus on reducing the incidence of obesity among Australians. This amendment is an improvement to the bill and we encourage members to support this amendment.
We propose that the shadow minister move the remaining three amendments in a group as we will be opposing those and it would suit the convenience of the House to vote on those amendments together.