Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3195 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
broadening of the terms of reference of the inquiry of the Standing Committee on Health into the health of school-age children in the ACT.
MR CORBELL (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Planning and Minister for Industrial Relations) (11.01): Mr Speaker, I rise briefly in this debate to indicate the government's support for Ms Gallagher's motion. It is an important motion because it does highlight not only the significant issue of advertising standards for children and young people in Australia, but also the broader issue of how media regulation is handled in Australia.
In an age in which all the indicators show that governments, particularly federal governments, are moving away from having a more prescriptive approach to media regulation, it is necessary to reaffirm the importance of taking a more proactive stance when it comes to issues around advertising standards and the impact that they may have on children and young people.
Childhood obesity is an issue in our community as much as it is an issue in other communities in Australia and, indeed, right around the developed world. There are no quick or easy fixes to this issue. It is a reflection of changed lifestyle patterns, changing patterns of behaviour within families, changes in family size and how they interact, and changes in cultural expectations. Those are big issues for our community to face, as much as any other issue, so to roll out simplistic ways of addressing this issue, which Mr Pratt alluded to in his speech, is not the way to proceed.
Ms Gallagher has raised a very important point in saying that we must take account of television advertising standards in looking at the health and wellbeing of children in the community. The government welcomes Ms Gallagher's approach. Equally, it will be looking forward and responding in detail to any issues that the standing committee raises on this matter and the other matters on which it will be reporting.
MS GALLAGHER (11.03), in reply: The existing standards for children's television require quality, educational and respectful TV programming for our children. They require that programs aimed at children have a minimum Australian content and have not been repeated too often. They dictate that programs should not be demeaning, racist, sexist, frightening, violent, alarming or likely to encourage unsafe behaviour. These requirements also apply to commercials screened during these programs.
Clearly, we want the television watched by our children to reinforce messages that we give our children about respect and tolerance, but there are no rules requiring TV programs or advertisements to reinforce or at least complement the messages we send about health and nutrition. The ABA's children's television standards really are minimal. They apply to a total of 360 hours of TV per station per year. I have no doubt that they were established with all the good intentions in the world, but they have not prevented Australia having the highest rate of TV advertising directed at children.
To this point, we have screened children's TV content for violence, sex and language, but not for negative health messages. This has resulted in Australia having the highest rate of food advertising, most of which is for foods high in fat, sugar or salt. Consistency would dictate that our children's physical health is as important as their mental health and that we should protect our children from influences that could have negative impacts