House debates

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Constituency Statements

Caffeine Toxicity, Bushfires

10:06 am

Photo of Susan TemplemanSusan Templeman (Macquarie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On New Year's Day this year, after a night out with friends in Katoomba, 21-year-old Lachlan Foote headed home to Blackheath, gave his mum a great big hug and wished her a Happy New Year. He then mixed a teaspoon of caffeine powder into a protein shake. Without proper instructions, he didn't know that one teaspoon can be the equivalent of 25 to 50 cups of coffee. He didn't know that it would kill him.

A day shy of his 22nd birthday, Lachlan suffered caffeine toxicity and his parents, Nigel and Dawn, have been fighting ever since that day to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else's child. With the proper rules and regulations, we can make sure that it doesn't.

Caffeine powder is extremely concentrated. It can easily trigger an overdose or a heart attack. In the United States last year, another young man lost his life after unknowingly consuming a fatal dose, and that country has banned concentrated caffeine powder since.

Nigel Foote worries that, without the same response here, caffeine powder will continue to be bought and sold without consumers really understanding its dangers. He says Lachlan's caffeine powder was shared between friends and it was very likely that Lachlan never got to read the warning label. He worries that another of Lachlan's friends might have some sitting in a cupboard somewhere. That's why the Footes are fighting to bring awareness to the dangers of caffeine powder.

Lachlan's teachers described him as thoughtful, ethical and honest. He was a talented musician and he'd worked hard at Scenic World for the previous five years and had saved up to either study science at university or travel. He was much loved, and the Footes don't want anyone else to lose their son.

We've bought this issue to the attention of Minister Hunt in the hope of speedy legislative action. After writing to the minister, I've been advised that Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the Therapeutic Goods Administration are working together to review the regulation of caffeine powder. I can only hope that an outcome is fast for the Footes and that all Australians can be spared the sort of risk that their son faced and the tragic consequences.

The word 'unprecedented' keeps being used in the context of bushfires burning in northern New South Wales and Queensland. These fires, some of them in rainforests, are shocking. But what's not unprecedented is the support that's been given by Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury rural fire volunteers. Many have travelled north. Some 22 went from the Blue Mountains yesterday and 24 are coming back today. They've been assisting in the Drake fire and fires around Armidale, and that's just a contingent from the Blue Mountains. From the Hawkesbury, we've had seven go to Queensland, now on their way back, and five to Tenterfield and Armidale. It's great work they're doing. They're assisted by the large air tanker flying from RAAF Base Richmond. We applaud their efforts.

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

And I join in thanking them: they've been fighting fires in my region.