Queensland cane growers say there is little appetite for a sugar tax within the Federal Coalition. Chairman of farm lobby group Canegrowers, Paul Schembri, this week led a delegation of industry representatives to Canberra to campaign against any move to tax sugary drinks.
It comes as health groups ramp up their calls for such a scheme, which has gained further momentum after the British Government recently imposed a tax on soft drinks.
Mr Schembri said he was “encouraged” by a meeting with the Minister for Rural Health Fiona Nash.
“Her words to us were that a sugar tax is a simplistic solution to a complex problem,” he said.
“She went on to say very, very sternly that the Federal Government will continue to focus on the totality of health and wellbeing rather than targeting a single product.
“So clearly, very explicitly, the Government has no plans for a sugar tax or a soft drink tax.”
Modelling has suggested a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks could rake in $400 million for the Government to spend obesity prevention programs.
But Mr Schembri, argued such a move would have a “catastrophic” effect on his industry.
“Targeting any particularly food product is probably not in itself going to be the solution,” Mr Schembri said.
“We can’t launch into some precautionary principle that says ‘let’s just tax sugar because there’s enough suspicion about it’.”
Canegrowers have pointed to a 2015 study which found Australia’s per capita sugar consumption had decreased by 16.5 per cent over the past 40 years — from 50.3 kilograms in 1970 to 42 kilograms in 2011.
The study was authored by sugar industry analyst Tom McNeill and dietician Bill Shrapnel.
“People are linking increased levels of obesity, heart disease and diabetes to increased levels of sugar consumption … it doesn’t stack up,” Mr Schembri said
“Too much of anything is not good.
“We have constantly said sugar, if consumed in moderation, can be part of a healthy and nutritious diet.”
While Mr Schembri acknowledged the importance of a balanced diet, recent research by Sydney University concluded more than one in two Australians have ignored World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
Fifty-five per cent of the 8,000 study participants consumed more than the WHO recommendation that refined sugars provide only 10 per cent of daily energy needs.
The data showed adolescents were the worst offenders, with study authors suggesting increased soft drink consumption in that age group as the major cause.
Source – ABC