Legislative Council: Thursday, September 14, 2023


Food (Restrictions on Advertising Junk Food) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 7 September 2022.)

The Hon. C. BONAROS (18:19): I had a speech; I cannot find it. I am sure that is music to everybody's ears, but I stand on behalf of SA-Best to speak to the bill, and in so doing indicate that, while we will not be supporting this bill, we do have our own policy around this issue.

My issue in relation to the bill I have before me, which is not actually before me, is one of definitions, basically. Whilst we support in principle that there are interrelations and so forth—I have spoken about this at an event that the Hon. Rob Simms I believe spoke at, in principle supporting some of the measures that have been proposed—I would hasten to say that the starting point should be every sporting event that we have in South Australia.

We have sporting events sponsored by McDonald's and KFC. We have advertisements at footy games, at local footy games, at soccer games, at cricket games, at tennis games—I do not think they do it at tennis. My point is that the definitions in the bill are very broad, and it is on that basis that we have concerns around the scope of the bill. When I say 'definitions', when you start breaking things down in terms of how much sugar and so forth they have, it could result in some items that we would not intend to have covered within the scope of the bill.

I want to end with one interesting quote, which came from the same session that we both took part in on this. It was based on figures that actually had been collated by the federal government, a report that was done by the federal government, in terms of preventative health. It said something like, and I am not going to be entirely accurate here: 'If we do absolutely nothing in terms of the obesity pandemic, over the next 10 years that will cost the economy something like $10 billion.'

That is where preventative health comes in. It is those sorts of things. When you are looking at the economic impacts as well as the health impacts as well as the pressures on our hospital systems, all those sorts of factors are critical when you are considering this sort of legislation and underpin the benefits of preventative health. They are absolutely legitimate because ultimately they cost governments more, they put pressures on our hospitals, they cost businesses more and they cost the economy more—$10 billion is an extraordinary amount of money that could be going towards other things.

There is an absolutely important role for government to play here in terms of preventative health in particular, and there is some merit in terms of certain restrictions, but in this instance, unfortunately, we say that our Greens colleague has gone some steps beyond what we could support. I will use the example of Adelaide High School, which happens to be across the road from an On The Run, which also has in it I think a Wendy's hot dog store. I cannot think what else there is.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. C. BONAROS: I apologise if I have used the wrong hot dogs, but there are hot dogs nonetheless. Next door to that, there is something else that advertises. The point is that it is difficult to restrict those sorts of advertisements, and it would be completely unfair on those businesses as well. I think we have discussed amongst ourselves the Vili's pie and pastie on a bus shelter. We would not necessarily expect that to fall within the scope of this, but certainly it is too broad. On that basis, we indicate we will not be supporting the bill.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (18:23): I rise to speak to this amendment bill on behalf of the opposition. Whilst the intent of the bill is extremely well meaning, and I commend the member for his continued commitment to this issue, there are impractical elements to consider, such as enforcement and overall impact.

This amendment bill will not stop young people from seeing junk food advertisements on buses, trains and billboards that are beyond the 500-metre zone stipulated or on privately owned businesses within the 500-metre zone. It will not stop young people from seeing junk food advertisements in between videos on various mobile social media apps.

Whilst I acknowledge that reducing any advertising in the bombardment of messaging to young people may be the aim, and the honourable member is picking his battles to fight, the opposition feels this approach has little impact and, more to the point, will be extremely difficult to monitor.

When we consulted on this bill, questions were asked regarding the practical implications of this policy in relation to regional centres or townships where country shows or markets are often conducted on school property sites. This does not appear to have been considered during the drafting of the bill.

In South Australia, government-owned assets, such as bus stops and buses, have no restrictions on the types of food and drink advertising that can be shown on them. Again, during consultation, the opposition were provided no details on the budgetary impact it would have on current advertising contracts in place.

Many metropolitan schools have publicly owned assets, like bus stop shelters, within 500 metres that are utilised for advertising. The Hon. Connie Bonaros gave some examples and I will include the examples of St Joseph's Memorial School in Norwood, which has two, and Adelaide High School, which has three. These schools are also opposite an On the Run, which promotes food that falls within the member's definition of junk food.

In addition, Glenelg Primary School has two bus shelters and is also alongside the Glenelg Football Club Oval, which is utilised during recess and lunchtimes, at which there are obviously boundary advertisement placards. Again, that school is also opposite another On the Run (OTR). Hundreds of buses pass our primary and high schools daily with advertisements of all sorts on them.

We the opposition believe the enforcement and monitoring of this amendment bill would be substantial. Our consultation did not afford a clear view of which body would be the enforcement agency. Such a ban might result in further enforcement responsibilities and costs being put onto local government.

What this amendment bill has achieved, and for which I praise the honourable member, is initiating an important conversation about the appropriateness of public advertisements and our conditioning to what is acceptable and what is not. I believe that many people in the community would take issue with cigarettes being advertised within 500 metres of a school. It is what we have come to expect.

Several countries have implemented regulations to limit the promotion of unhealthy foods in media targeted at children, such as television programs, websites and mobile apps. Our party is open to continued conversations around this issue. Preventative health is important. We have a shadow minister dedicated to this sector because of its importance in policy. I would like to impress that not supporting the bill in its current form today is not an end to this conversation. In conclusion, the Liberal Party will not be supporting this bill, but certainly does thank the member for raising this important subject.

Sitting extended beyond 18:30 on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (18:29): I thank the Hon. Robert Simms for highlighting the impact that junk food advertising has on children and their dietary intake now and into the future. In this modern world we are surrounded by unhealthy food and drink advertising, which influences food preferences and consumption. The food and beverage industry is also increasingly utilising non-broadcast channels, including outdoor advertising, to reach a large, unrestricted audience.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Point of order: I actually cannot hear the speaker and I am quite interested to hear what she has to say.

The PRESIDENT: I am sure that everybody is respectful of the speaker. The Hon. Ms Bourke, continue, please.

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE: Research has shown that junk food marketing takes advantage of the developmental vulnerabilities of children and adolescents. Our children are unable to tell the difference between factual information and advertising, which makes them particularly vulnerable to persuasive marketing tactics employed by the food and beverage industry.

The South Australian government spends considerable time in funding and creating environments that support South Australians to access and consume healthy food and drinks. This includes the development and implementation of food and drink policies that aim to create healthy food environments in South Australia. An example is the recent update to the Right Bite Healthy Food and Drink Supply Standards for South Australian schools. Another example is the release of the Healthy Workplaces Service, a new service that helps provide employers, large or small, with free and practical information to show how they can support their workers in a healthy and thriving environment.

To further this work, the Malinauskas government have an election commitment to establish an independent prevention agency, Preventative Health SA, with a clear mandate to develop evidence-based programs and policies to keep South Australians healthy. This is a key commitment and priority of our government.

The South Australian government is also working with the federal government, which has committed to delivering its National Preventive Health Strategy 2021-2030. The federal budget committed $500,000 over two years to support a feasibility study to explore the current landscape of unhealthy food marketing and advertising to children and to consider options for implementing restrictions across Australia.

In addition, the federal government has also launched its National Obesity Strategy 2022-2032, which was formally endorsed by the Minister for Health and Wellbeing in May 2022. The strategy provides a 10-year framework for action to provide support for those living with obesity across all states and territories. In this collaborative work with the federal government and the other states, it is important to note that food sold in Australia and New Zealand must comply with the binational Food Standards Code.

The South Australian Food Act 2001, which this bill seeks to amend, adopts the code and sets enforcement powers for South Australian regulators. The act is based on the Model Food Provisions, in alignment with the commitment to support a consistent binational food regulation system. As many food manufacturers and retailers are either national or multinational, it is important that the South Australian Food Act 2001 remains largely consistent with the binational requirements for the sale and advertising of food.

Advice the government has received is that the amendment bill may step outside this commitment to support a consistent binational food regulation system between Australia and New Zealand. Further, this bill does not properly define junk food in a way that is legally enforceable or workable. While an appropriate definition can be set for a policy intervention, the use of the term in legislation would need to be legally defined to be enforceable. There is currently no legislation in relation to this matter implemented in Australia, therefore there is no accepted legal or workable definition of junk food.

The South Australian government is committed to ensuring children can be supported to enjoy a healthy diet by creating healthy food environments; however, any legislative action that aims to limit junk food advertising requires careful consideration to ensure the legislation is legally enforceable. Therefore, the government will not support this bill.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (18:34): I am disappointed to hear that no parties in the parliament are supporting the bill. I had hoped that the government would announce that they would be looking into the issues around public transport and health. It does not appear that that has been considered either, so that is disappointing.

I think it is a missed opportunity for this parliament to deal with the issue. I find some of the arguments have been quite inconsistent. The view of the opposition seems to be, 'Well, this bill will have little effect so therefore it is better to do nothing.' That is disappointing. The Greens will continue to push this to ensure that there is better regulation of junk food advertising, particularly close to schools but also on our public infrastructure like our buses, our trains, their respective stops and on public buildings. With that, I conclude my remarks.

Second reading negatived.