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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3250..


MR PRATT (continuing):

while the problem escalates. I am not criticising the committee's inquiry-they have, rightly, broader terms of reference. But the government does not need to await the outcome of this committee inquiry to get on with tackling child obesity. As I was saying, there has been plenty of information in the public arena for a long time. Therefore, I would maintain that the government is prevaricating. The government has lost time and it continues to lose time when there exists an urgency to get moving on this issue.

There are so many problems which stem from childhood obesity and lack of physical fitness amongst school-age children, and this was pointed out earlier today by Ms Gallagher when she touched on this subject. For the child, these include the obvious physical difficulties, lack of self-esteem, lack of motivation, victimisation by peers, depression, as well as numerous other behavioural problems and health problems. In the long term there are also ongoing problems which an adult who suffered childhood obesity will face. These include ongoing dietary problems-and we now have significant evidence to suggest that an adult's dietary pattern is established during or by early adolescence; ongoing obesity problems; the development of coronary problems; and various other health and psychological problems.

The wider community also faces problems in regard to childhood obesity. In the schoolyard these include issues like disruptive behaviour and lack of participation. In economic terms there is the burden of the high cost of health on the community as well as issues surrounding employment prospects. Therefore, action taken now surely is not only a short-term investment in the future of our community and our kids but, in strategic planning terms, it will work to alleviate the future burden on society.

I believe that the decision by the government to cancel the health and fitness assessment program-a program which aimed to deal with this problem; to deal with it now-was irresponsible. Furthermore, I believe that there is an urgent need to address this problem and provide solutions. As I said in my interview with the Canberra Times earlier this week-by the way, an interview criticised as being simplistic; a silly and unhelpful criticism-I believe that action could start by reducing the provision of junk food and fizzy drinks in school tuckshops. Kids spend 30 per cent of their woken hours at school and eat about 40 per cent of food not prepared at home from the school tuckshop. I believe that the school tuckshop, which is part of our kids' culture, should be encouraged to lead by example and promote healthy food and good nutrition. It would be a start-perhaps it is a small simplistic start but it is step in the right direction.

Mr Deputy Speaker, our kids need a good health and fitness program and they need a healthy environment at school which demonstrates high standards. They need that now-they needed it yesterday, for God's sake!-and, for this reason, I commend this motion to the chamber.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (5.13): Mr Deputy Speaker, the government will not be supporting the motion moved by Mr Pratt today but I foreshadow that at the conclusion of my comments I will move an amendment to his motion.

I would like to address the points raised in Mr Pratt's motion. First of all, Mr Pratt asks the Assembly to condemn the government for abandoning the health and physical fitness assessment program commissioned by the previous government. For the record, the


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