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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3187..


Wednesday, 25 September 2002

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Health-Standing Committee

Reference

MS GALLAGHER (10.31): I move:

That this Assembly:

(1) recognises that Australia has the highest level of advertising to children, a significant proportion of which is for junk food;

(2) calls on the Standing Committee on Health to investigate the adequacy of Children's Television Standards in their inquiry into the health of school-age children in the ACT.

As a community, the health of our children is very important to us. If we spot a problem developing in the health of our children, we should take a holistic approach to treating and preventing that problem, and that is what this motion aims to do.

The recently concluded New South Wales Childhood Obesity Summit reported that over 5 per cent of Australian children are obese and 14 to 18 per cent are overweight. In the 10-year period from 1985 to 1995, the level of combined overweight/obesity in children has more than doubled in all but the youngest age group of boys, and the level of obesity trebled in all age groups. Clearly, this development in children's health has serious implications for children as they grow and for the community. We need to address the issue from all angles and we need to look at why and how this is happening, implement prevention and treatment programs and tackle the various factors that contribute to this problem.

The increases in childhood obesity can be traced to two broad causes, each of which covers a range of more specific issues. These two causes are: a marked increase in energy consumption by children, generally in the form of sugary and fatty foods, and a marked decrease in physical activity. There are a number of reasons for each of these changes. The increasingly processed nature of our food contributes to the increase in energy intake in children. The generally high fat and calorie content of convenience food, as well as its appeal to children, is also a contributing factor, and an increase in the marketing of soft drinks as a part of meal deals adds a calorie boost with little nutritional benefit.

There are also a range of issues that contribute to a decrease in physical activity, from access issues due to cost and infrastructure, to safety concerns that prevent children from playing unsupervised or walking to school. An increase in television watching and the prevalence of computer games also contribute to sedentary behaviour. It is around television that the two issues of sedentary behaviour and unhealthy eating converge


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