Greens propose sugar tax

Leader of the Australian Greens Richard Di Natale says a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks could raise $500 million per year to be reinvested back into positive health initiatives for Australians.

Dr Di Natale, who was a general practitioner and public health specialist before he entered politics, says more than a quarter of Australian adults and children are overweight or obese.

“Sugary beverages are a major contributor to increasing rates of childhood obesity and, if this trend continues, our children may be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents,” he said.

Earlier this year, TV chef Jamie Oliver laid down a challenge to Australia and called on us to follow the UK and introduce a tax of sugary soft drinks.

“The Australian Greens accept that challenge, and would introduce a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks, which the evidence shows will reduce uptake by at least 12 per cent,” Dr Di Natale said. “Over four years, $2 billion could be raised by ensuring that sugary drink manufacturers contribute to the harms their product causes.”

The announcement has been met with disappointment by the industry, with Australian Beverages Council CEO Geoff Parker describing the tackling of obesity rates as “simplistic” and “ineffective”.

“There is no substantial evidence globally that a soft drink tax would have any meaningful impact on improving community health,” he said. “In fact, research from the McKinsey Global Institute found that a 10 per cent tax on high-sugar products would be one of the least effective measures in combating obesity, ranking 14th out of 17 intervention methods.

“As an industry, we see education, access to information and moderation in consumption are the best methods to combat the issue of obesity. Beverage consumption is a personal choice and soft drink can safely maintain a place within a balanced diet.”

The farmers’ group Canegrowers, Australian Sugar Milling Council, National Farmers’ Federation and the Australian Food and Grocery Council said the tax proposed by the Greens was ill conceived, regressive and would falsely demonise sugar as the cause of problems related to people being overweight and obesity.

“A sugar tax is a simplistic solution to a complex problem,” Canegrowers Chairman Paul Schembri said. “Targeting any particular food product is not in itself going to be the solution to Australia’s overweight and obesity issues, instead we need to continue to focus on the totality of health and wellbeing.”

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