Federation Chamber - PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS - Health Care: Sleep

18 March 2024

I move:

That this House:

(1) acknowledges that:

(a) sleep is essential to good physical health and to mental and emotional wellbeing;

(b) insufficient sleep increases risks to long-term physical and mental health;

(c) four in every ten Australians currently experience inadequate sleep; and

(d) inadequate sleep has substantial economic and productivity costs for Australia;

(2) notes the:

(a) recent SBS television series 'Australia's Sleep Revolution' with Dr Michael Mosley and its role in raising awareness of the importance of sleep to health and wellbeing;

(b) eleven recommendations of the inquiry and report, Bedtime Reading, which was completed in the 45th Parliament by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport;

(c) committee's bipartisan and comprehensive recommendations which highlighted the need for sleep health to be recognised as a national priority due to its health significance;

(d) Government's response to the report published in August 2023, which supported or supported in-principle ten of the eleven recommendations made by the committee; and

(e) Government's focus on sleep health as a national priority alongside fitness and nutrition; and

(3) recognises the sustained attention required by the Government, in collaboration with states and territories, to ensure our health system acknowledges, addresses, and responds to the growing prevalence of inadequate sleep and its harmful impacts on health, well-being, and social and economic outcomes.

Sleep is often an afterthought for many Australians. Despite our supposedly laid-back lifestyle, we often find ourselves on the go and pressed for time every day, and no more so than in this parliament. As a result, our sleep suffers, as does our overall health. As a parent, a grandparent, a paediatrician and a politician I've seen firsthand how a lack of sleep affects those around me, including me and my family. As a paediatrician I've often sat in my office and heard from rather hollow-eyed parents about the sleep of their newborn or their toddler and how it's affecting them, their families and their health.

Inadequate sleep and sleep disorders can have serious health complications. It can lead to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, cognitive decline and deterioration, and other health conditions such as multiple sclerosis. With health issues, prevention is the answer, and it should be the key focus of how we deal with sleep issues. This is particularly important for my electorate of Macarthur, as we have many individuals working in roles that have shiftwork, that have overnight or late-hour shifts, such as in emergency services, public transport services and the logistics industries. Even in my own industry of health we've seen how people can be affected by long shifts, poor sleep and having to deal with family life as well as the long working hours.

I firmly believe also that every member of this House would acknowledge the importance of sleep. I don't know how many of our colleagues have come to see me about their poor sleep and the difficulty they're having coping with the workload of a parliamentarian or a staffer. My good friend the member for Fremantle, Josh Wilson, and his staff travel from Western Australia each sitting week and need to adjust their own body clocks every sitting week to deal with the long travel time and the lifestyle of a parliamentarian and parliamentary staff.

I'd also like to thank the member for Fremantle for seconding this motion. Together we are rather minor celebrities—although he is much more of a celebrity than me—as we feature in this Wednesday's episode of the SBS documentary Australia's sleep revolution with Dr Michael Mosley. We've had our sleep study, alongside those of the member for New England and Senator Jacqui Lambie, and we got some surprises. I can say that I'm not the least healthy member of that quartet, but I didn't do well, much to my surprise.

I was proud to serve as the deputy chair of the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport in the last parliament, and I'm proud to now serve as chair of the committee. In the previous parliament, it was alongside my friend the former member for North Sydney and then chair of the committee Trent Zimmerman that we produced the report on our inquiry into sleep health awareness in Australia. We found that almost four in every 10 Australians were not having enough quality sleep, which comes at an obvious cost to the country and to the economy but also to the individual's health. There was also a Deloitte report from 2016 with the finding that, during that period, the Australian economy lost $66 billion due to inadequate sleep.

Our report, which was appropriately entitled Bedtime reading, contained 11 recommendations that sought to address the impact of poor sleep hygiene and inadequate sleep on the Australian community. Our recommendations were: better recognition of sleep health as a priority health and wellbeing issue, revised guidelines and processes for addressing inadequate sleep, a review of available sleep health services and therapies Australia, including eligibility requirements for these services, and mechanisms by which they are funded. We also suggested the listing of supporting medication for sleep disorders under the orphan drug program, including medications for things like narcolepsy. We suggested changes to sleep health education and training for GPs and specialists and an increased focus on research into sleep health and sleep disorders through the Medical Research Future Fund and the NHMRC.

I would like to also thank the previous Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, for working with us and supporting our inquiry, and also the present Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon. Mark Butler, for his work in recognising the importance of how good quality sleep can reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Importantly, our government is supporting the wideranging scope of the inquiry recommendations and is supportive of work already underway. We support further measures to make sure that funding is put in place for this.