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Food Amendment (Kilojoule Labelling Scheme and Other Matters) Bill 2016

I rise to join the debate on the Food Amendment (Kilojoule Labelling Scheme and Other Matters) Bill 2016. I have been in the chamber for most of the debate, and it is difficult to disagree with much that has been said. Most of the debate centred around the rising levels of obesity, particularly amongst our kids. As I said, there is not much you can say to disagree about the current situation, and certainly these incidences of obesity and unhealthy living do end up being a drain on the public purse.

There has been, however, very little debate about the bill itself and its effectiveness or its potential effectiveness. I for one do not think it will be that effective. Certainly the coalition is not opposing it, but there is a big difference between the attitude of members representing their communities in this house: those on one side of the chamber take a paternal view and feel that the government is there to tell people what to do and how to live their lives; and those on the other side believe it is more about personal responsibility. I think that focus on personal responsibility has been one of the major things that attracted me to the Liberal Party when I joined back in 2003.

People should take personal responsibility for their health, and the member for Narre Warren South made that comment in her contribution. She said that people should take personal responsibility and that this measure is going to help educate them. I agree. I think people should take personal responsibility, but not at the expense of other sections of the community. What this bill will do is actually put an impost on small business. I note that not one member opposite has talked about the financial impost on many of the businesses that will be hit by this particular piece of legislation. Many of the examples that have been used are already voluntarily doing the things that this legislation will impose on other ones. We have had a couple of members talk about the different kilojoule content of various products. McDonald’s is already voluntarily putting kilojoule measures up on its boards. Subway, I believe, is doing the same thing.

The member for Eltham also talked about getting Japanese takeaway for her children and that that could be potentially harming them. Well, a Japanese takeaway will not be captured by this bill, as many, many other food outlets will not be. I could almost come at the idea that this bill would cover every piece of pre-prepared food, but the fact of the matter is that there are so many different groups, so many food preparers, that will not be captured by this bill that it makes it kind of meaningless. You could walk into McDonald’s and see the kilojoule content, but you could walk into your local bakery and you would not see a thing. It really does not cover the breadth of food preparers that I think would make it worthwhile and that would make it actually achieve the outcomes that it states.

On the issue of personal responsibility, there are a lot of apps already that you can get on your phone. I use one myself, MyFitnessPal, which I find — —

See, the member for Mordialloc has even taken personal responsibility. He does not need these kilojoules to be placed up on menu boards, because he has taken personal responsibility. I take personal responsibility, and many of the places I go to will not be compelled to put this explanatory information up on their boards.

I think we really do have to look at the issue of this slow creeping of red tape impost on small business. This might not be a lot to some small businesses, but it is just another little thing that we are putting on them, and I for one think that we should be removing red tape and removing this sort of impost on small businesses so that they can actually get on with doing their job, getting on with trying to make a living and building the economy, rather than continually needing to comply with an ever-growing range of legislation.

I find some of the exemptions to be extraordinary. Cinema food will be exempt. Even though the bill purports to cover a whole range of food chain businesses, cinemas such as Hoyts and Village cinemas, which have snack bars, pre-prepared food, hot dogs and popcorn, will not need to put anything up. Vending machines will not have anything on them. Businesses serving petrol will also be exempt, for goodness sake. These are some of the main places where fast food is put up at the point of sale. The fact that those businesses have an exemption just shows me that the bill is more about seeming to do something than actually doing something. As I said, I feel that the bill itself is not going to get the outcomes that it purports to want to achieve.

The experience in New South Wales has also been raised a few times. I have had a look at the report that was put out as a result. There have been some improvements — 15 per cent, as the member for Eltham said, which is not insignificant in and of itself — but the education program around it shows that less than 25 per cent of people knew what the right intake was as a result of that education program. I think that there are other ways and other measures that we can take to educate people about the amount of kilojoules they are bringing into their bodies.

There have been some programs. I might be showing my age, but the Life. Be In It. campaign with Norm is probably one that sticks in the mind as one which made people get up off their couches, away from the television and get moving. I think those sorts of programs are ones that do improve and do show people the way they should conduct themselves and the way they should look after themselves.

As I say, this bill does not cover enough, not that I would purport that it should cover more. There are already many organisations — places like McDonald’s, Subway and KFC — who are already voluntarily putting these kilojoule counts up. There are many, many more who will not be compelled to do it at all. I do not oppose the bill, but I really think that we should stop and think about how governments are imposing themselves on people’s lives and how governments are making it more and more difficult for businesses to do their work.

Over and above all of that, we need to take personal responsibility for ourselves. We do not need government to hold our hands every step of the way. We know that we can find out this information ourselves if we need to, and imposing these sorts of regulations on business is only going to restrict them in their contributions to building the Victorian economy.

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