MINISTERIAL BRIEFING

Task:
This document needs to be presented in the form of a Ministerial briefing note, addressed to the relevant Minister. The briefing should be presented from you in your ‘role’ as an official in the relevant government department, and should include the following:
• Appropriate heading: state you designation in the department; the relevant Minister for whom the note is intended; the subject of the note
• Purpose: succinct statement of the purpose of the briefing note
• Background: brief description of the context and history of the policy topic
• Issues: identify the main issues pertinent to understanding the policy topic. The issues should be analysed from multiple perspectives (e.g. historical, financial, economic, political, social and ethical)
• Options: identify and assess alternative policy options
• Recommendations: based on the above analysis, advise the Minister on the most suitable course of action to be taken.

Topics:
Please select one of the following policy issues / questions to be addressed in the Ministerial briefing note.
1. The Federal Government of Australia last year legalised medicinal cannabis use and states regulate its cultivation, with Victoria having already harvested its first cannabis crop for medicinal use. Doctors who want to prescribe cannabis will need special permission. Currently they are doing it on a patient-by-patient basis. The entire practice involves a long process of approvals. Because of this, some patients need to wait months before they actually receive their treatments. This stringent process is put in place to ensure that this highly addictive crops are not unduly used. What policy advice would you give the Minister about developing a more efficient process for approving the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes?

2. The recently released Closing the Gap annual report on the quality of life of Indigenous Australians revealed improvements in some but not all health indicators. What policy advice would you give the Minister in relation to priorities for action to close the life expectancy gap for Indigenous Australians?

3. Levels of risky alcohol use across Australia have shown little improvement across the past decade with around 1 in 10 Australians putting their long-term health at risk through excessive drinking. There is a causal relationship between the affordability of alcohol and alcohol consumption, including strong correlations between price and overall consumption, heavy or problem drinking and harms to both drinkers and others. It is argued that increasing the price of alcohol reduces the amount of alcohol consumed at a population level over time. There are counter arguments as well. One such argument is that the drinkers will still find a way to consume and this may lead to increased crime or less consumption of other goods (including merit goods perhaps) in order to pay for it. What policy advice would you give the Minister in relation to the use of pricing as an effective mechanism to reduce the level of alcohol consumption?

4. One of the greatest public health challenges confronting Australia and many other industrialised countries is the obesity epidemic. The food people consume is a major factor in obesity. It needs to be easier for people to make healthier choices about what they eat. More than a year ago the federal government introduced the health star rating system after a series of discussion with the major stakeholders. However, this rating system is voluntary for industry to implement. It is argued that as it is voluntary, food manufacturers can decide whether a product will display health stars or not. What policy advice would you give the Minister in relation to a voluntary food rating system?

5. Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness. However, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding continues to be sub-optimal in many developing countries. Considering a developing country context advise the Minister for Health of that country as to how exclusive breastfeeding could be increased substantially.

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