13 November 2023

Very briefly: I'm a worried man. I'm worried that, as a paediatrician, I'm seeing children in the preschool-aged group with morbid obesity. I'm worried that we're poisoning our children and our adolescents with the food that we're giving them. I'm worried that we have an obesity epidemic that is urgent. It is severely effecting health care in this country. We've watched this evolve over the last 20 years and done very little about it.

It is urgent that we act on this major health priority, and that includes things like advertising the dangers of the foods that we're offering. Highly processed foods are killing our kids, killing our adults and killing our elderly. It has to stop. It has to change. We need to have proper food labelling. I don't want to know the kilojoule count of a bottle of lemonade. I want to know how many teaspoons of sugar are in that bottle. I want people to understand that they shouldn't advertise junk food, highly processed food, to our children and adolescents. This has to stop. This is a major epidemic, and we are doing very little about it. Times must change.

I'm a paediatrician. I should not be seeing children as young as four with morbid obesity. They will inevitably develop liver disease, cardiovascular disease, blindness—a whole range of health priorities. We're also seeing an epidemic of gestational diabetes, and that has long-term implications for our children and their risk of developing obesity, diabetes and all that goes with it. We need to stop being judgemental. We need to do things that work. We need to stop lecturing people. It's time for action and change.

I think there are many, many health priorities in this country but obesity and type 2 diabetes should be at the top of the list. We have to act on this. All of my medical colleagues, no matter what field they're in, are seeing increases in issues. Vascular surgeons are seeing many more amputations than they've ever seen before because of diabetes and the risks of vascular disease. Our eye doctors are seeing more retinal disease and more blindness because of diabetes. Out liver specialists are seeing more people needing liver transplants because of the risk of fatty liver due to diabetes and obesity. We are seeing many more people unable to work because of the skeletal effects of massive obesity. Our hospital systems are being overwhelmed by people with diabetes and the complications thereof.

There is much to be done. Our government is acting by looking at how we can better manage chronic illness, such as diabetes, in general practice. People need access to primary care and general practice so that they can deal with the complications of their diabetes and obesity. We need a national education program that teaches people about the dangers of the foods that we have developed through—

The SPEAKER: The time for the debate has concluded.