Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (25 October) . . Page.. 2038..
MR CONNOLLY (continuing):
To return to some common ground - the idea of the Health Promotion Fund being set up with statutory independence - both parties acknowledged that its time had come. The Health Promotion Fund in the ACT has worked rather well. It has become accepted now as a part of the funding mechanism. In particular, it has developed some quite innovative program funding. When it first started it was seen really just as a substitute for tobacco advertising. In those first few years, essentially, it was seen as stepping in when tobacco sponsors had been forced out, or encouraged to go out. In the years since it has developed a much broader, and properly broader, view of its own responsibilities. It clearly was the intention of the former Government, and it remains the intention of this Government, that the fund not be just a substitute funder of events for tobacco companies. The fund can take a very proactive role in some of the campaigns. In particular, the workplace drug and alcohol campaigns that were developed in the last couple of years have been seen as Australian leaders. The Health Promotion Fund has done a very good job and the Opposition is more than happy to support the concept of it being given statutory independence. We will be proposing some amendments at the detail stage in relation to membership of the board; but, as a concept, statutory independence for the Health Promotion Fund is something that both major parties supported in the recent election.
MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Minister for Health and Community Care) (4.01), in reply: The Health Promotion Bill is, I think, a relatively straightforward piece of legislation to establish the Health Promotion Board to administer the Health Promotion Fund. It is a piece of legislation that I am pleased that the Opposition is supporting because I think it is going to be very important to the ACT in the future. However, I would not like members of this Assembly to underestimate the importance of this Bill on the basis that I believe that it is a quite simple piece of legislation. The recent drink-driving statistics and the increasing smoking rates amongst young people are just two examples of issues demanding attention. While regulation and policing are a part of the answer, I believe that the time has come to look at new and innovative ways of addressing these problems. Health Promotion has a wide-ranging charter to seek the most efficient ways of influencing people's behaviour and to provide the healthy choices that will benefit both individuals and the community in the long term.
The Liberal Party made two election commitments in relation to health promotion: First, to increase the Health Promotion Fund resources to 5 per cent of the revenue from the tobacco franchise fee, and, secondly, to give the fund a greater degree of autonomy in the future. These two commitments come together in this legislation and provide a direction that, I am sure, will set health promotion on track for years to come.
At the time of the election the proposed increase to the fund would have resulted in a further $500,000 being available for health promotion purposes - an approximate increase of 50 per cent in the total size of the fund. However, in the period since the election, due to changes in other States, the tobacco franchise fees have risen from a level of 75 per cent to 100 per cent. This has substantially increased the dollars available to the Health Promotion Fund. Despite a great deal of financial pressure, I am very pleased to say that the Government has been able to maintain its financial commitment to the fund and to maintain the 5 per cent level. The result is an increase of 100 per cent in the size of the fund, which will now mean a total of some $2.1m being appropriated for this year's budget.