Greens launch health care plan

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A national dental health care scheme, a minister for mental health and an end to junk food television ads for children are part of the Australian Greens’ national health care plan.

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The plan was launched in Perth on Monday by Greens leader Bob Brown and health spokeswoman Rachel Siewert. Senator Siewert said the measures targeted preventative health to keep people out of hospitals.

The combined cost of poor health and associated social impacts from tobacco and alcohol use, obesity, and poor dental, mental and hearing health was nearly $139 billion a year, she said.

“We need to be focussing on keeping people well, rather than the sickness side of the health care system.”

A national dental health care scheme aimed to end the waiting list of 500,000 Australians and included incentives to attract dental workers to rural areas, she said.

Senator Brown said one Australian in five struck some mental health problem in any given year but Australia was doing precious little about it.

The Greens plan includes $350 million a year for mental health with a focus on rural and regional areas.

Senator Brown said the Greens would stop the pushing of junk food ads during childrens’ television watching hours, banning them before 9.30 at night.

He said more than $400 million was spent on junk food advertising on television each year.

“They know it works, they employ psychologists to get around children, to promote the pester factor where parents are pestered in the supermarket to get junk food.

“It’s pretty tawdry when you look at it but it’s about the profit line of the companies that are purveying junk food,” Senator Brown said.

“We’ve got an obligation to do better than that in this country.”

Senator Brown said the Greens would also put labels on alcohol saying drinking in moderation was fine but overdoing it would injure health.

Food should also carry “traffic light labelling” so shoppers could select healthier foods, he said.

The Greens would also ensure a baseline price on cigarettes so big retailers could not manipulate the market to drop the price to entice people to become nicotine addicts, Senator Brown said.

Also included are better hearing screening with a focus on indigenous communities and a 1.5 per cent levy on junk food and alcohol advertising.