“I do not support a sugar tax” were the words spoken by the Nationals’ leader when he visited the cane heartland of North Queensland.
Standing with Canegrowers representatives, Barnaby Joyce, also the Minister for Agriculture and Resources, made it very clear he would not support any sugar tax, or even a conversation about the idea.
His firm stance follows a recent call by Victorian Liberal MP Russel Broadbent’s for the Government to consider a sugar tax, saying it could be used to fund sporting facilities.
However, Mr Joyce made it clear his stance would not be shifted and he would not enter into any conversations.
“A sugar tax is not going to be supported,” Mr Joyce said.
“You know what happens when people say we are just going to start a little fire with the curtains but don’t worry about the house.
“Little conversations turn into money grabbing exercises so that they can take the money, and they will be taking it once more out of Central Queensland [and] out of North Queensland.
“I am calling on the Labor Party members who get their pay checks from Central and North Queensland to come out and say you do not support it.”
Lobby group Canegrowers continues to oppose tax
Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri said the tax would decimate the sugar industry and it was too simplistic to blame sugar alone for obesity and diabetes.
“There is no doubt that a sugar tax would be an absolute disaster for the Australian sugar industry,” he said.
Canegrowers Mackay chairman Kevin Borg added that talk of a sugar tax just added more stress to an industry still grappling with the long-running sugar marketing dispute.
“We do need this put to bed very quickly so the industry can get on and do what it is supposed to be doing,” Mr Borg said.
“We are fighting all of these battles on a number of fronts at and we just need to get on with it.”
Calls for discussion on sugar tax continue
Various groups have been pushing the idea of a sugar tax as a means of combating rising obesity and diabetes rates in Australia.
That push has intensified after the UK announced plans to introduce a tax on soft drinks in 2018.
In Australia, the Greens called for a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks during the election campaign and said it could raise $500 million dollars per year in revenue
Diabetes Queensland is one group which has supported the calls for a tax and spokesman Cameron Thompson said it was time there was a proper conversation.
“We support modelling of a sugar tax for all Queenslanders to see what it is we are trying to do and what are the potential costs involved with that,” he said.
“We want to have that fully understood but when we are already starting with carrying a burden of $11 billion a year in the cost of obesity in Queensland, that is a huge thing to be hanging around your neck.”