Dr HAINES (Indi) (16:10): This year marks 50 years since the Whitlam government decided to phase out tobacco advertising. Due to the change of government in 1975, the eventual decision to implement the ban on tobacco advertising was made by the Fraser government and came into effect in 1976. That little bit of history shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in this chamber. In the years before those government decisions, the evidence about the harm caused by tobacco was mounting. What we were also learning in those years was that the advertising and marketing of those products was contributing to their prevalence and, therefore, their harm.

This is relevant to today’s debate in a few ways. It’s clear that policymakers have known for decades that slick marketing and advertising campaigns increase the likelihood that we will consume products that are harmful to our health. We also know from this example that the debate around regulating such advertising does not need to be divided along party lines. We can also draw parallels with the ways in which industries will fight any regulation on the marketing of their products, seeking to self-regulate in order to avoid more punitive or evidence based limits on their activities. Alcohol companies regularly break advertising rules with rarely any penalties or consequences for that. The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, FARE, has discovered dozens of breaches of the advertising code on the Facebook pages of popular alcohol brands. FARE found content that contained images of under-25-year-olds drinking, celebrated binge drinking and implied that alcohol is connected to social success. We know that celebrating heavy drinking among young people is linked to increases in alcohol use and alcohol related problems.

We’re now at a moment when we are faced with mounting evidence about the harms caused by other harmful products, such as gambling and junk food, in addition to alcohol. The ways in which these products are advertised, particularly to children, is becoming more insidious, more targeted and more advanced much more quickly than policymakers can keep up with. We’re not just talking about advertising on television and radio, but advertising on social media, billboards, sponsorship deals and more, as we’ve heard this afternoon. The ways in which these products have become synonymous with sporting codes, competitions, clubs and activities is no accident. None of this is by accident. We know that children between the ages of four and six believe that a product is better for you if it has a cartoon on its packaging. We also know that Australian adolescents are exposed to almost 100 promotions for junk food per week from online sources.

I’m particularly concerned by the proliferation of sports gambling advertising on television and social media. It’s aimed at young men in particular. This has been drawn to our attention in multiple ways by multiple members of this parliament. In particular I want to single out the member for Goldstein who has done a lot of work about this recently in this parliament. We know that advertising normalises placing a bet on every statistic at every stop in play. This advertising makes it seem that the only lens through which we can enjoy sport is one where we socialise with our mates through a sports betting app and that mateship is not about playing or watching the game but about placing bets on it: ‘No harm in that, eh? It’s just a bit of fun. Stick with your mates.’

The Australian Institute of Family Studies reports that one-quarter—23 per cent—of betters reported being under 18 when they placed their first bet on sports. Further, they report that, of all of these young men who bet on sports, 70 per cent were found to be at risk of problem gambling. As a healthcare professional myself and now as a member of parliament, I’m committed to working towards policies that help people both in my regional electorate and across the nation to live longer, stronger and healthier lives. I’m grateful to the members in this place for talking about the social determinants of health which impact on these decisions.

The reality is that, in my electorate, we are more likely to face chronic disease that’s impacted by poor diet, alcohol and, indeed, the problems of gambling. So we must take action to turn these statistics around—we truly must. I’m not talking about a nanny state—no one here is—but what we have in this parliament is the greatest proportion of health professionals as MPs that we have ever had. Let’s make it a legacy of this parliament: that we work together, that we don’t take partisan lines on this, that we actually listen to the people we represent. The member for Clark just talked about this: this would have overwhelming support from across the nation if we actually made this a legacy of this parliament. Back in ’76 I think it was Mr Whitlam who said, ‘It’s time.’ Well, it’s time again. Let’s do something about problem advertising for these harmful products.

Sign up

Keep up to date with the latest news and information