A growing problem
Australia has some of the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the world, and the rates are growing. 28% of Australian adults are now obese and over a quarter of children overweight or obese. The highly processed, energy-dense food we consume is a major factor in driving obesity.
The highly processed, energy-dense food we consume is a major factor in driving obesity. Sugar-sweetened drinks are a significant culprit, particularly for children, and only winner is Big Sugar.
The Greens believe that prevention is central to good public health policy and sugary drinks are driving obesity and the raft of preventable disease that often comes with it.
The Greens are signalling our intent to bring forward a sugar-sweetened beverages tax bill next year because we are the only party with the courage and commitment to use this measure to tackle childhood obesity.
The Green will move to establish a parliamentary inquiry into the rise of obesity in Australia, particularly in children.
The inquiry will inform Greens draft legislation for a sugar-sweetened beverages tax as well as other policy responses to best combat obesity.
If the government doesn’t act, the Greens will introduce a Private Senator’s Bill to give effect to a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages into the Senate by the end of 2017.
This push by the Greens comes as countries around the world, from Ireland to the UK, Hungary to Mexico, are listening to the calls of health experts, researchers, doctors and the public to implement similar sugar-sweetened beverage taxes.
The case for taxing sugary drinks
We already put a price on other household commodities that cause harm like alcohol and tobacco to help us change our behaviour in a way that can have a real impact on our health, and the health of our children.
By taxing the sweetest and most harmful drinks, we can help reduce obesity, particularly in children, with the money raised invested back into public health programs.
A price increase of 20% on sugar-sweetened drinks, is predicted to result in a 12% drop off in consumption – even higher for the highest consumers. This could reduce obesity rates by more than 1% nationwide and help to protect children and young people from a lifetime of obesity.
The Greens policy follows the general model used overseas, as follows: an excise equivalent to 20% of retail price levied on water-based beverages with more than 5g of added sugar per 100ml.
Every dollar raised will be reinvested into public health, preventative health, and health education.
We know that the government are in the pocket of big business, but the public health community and the research is in agreement – this measure will work to drive down consumption of these drinks and with it childhood obesity and associated illness.
A tax on sugary drinks is a key recommendation of the World Health Organization in their Ending Childhood Obesity report, as part of a suite of measures. This approach is supported by the YMCA, Australian Dental Association, the Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges, the Public Health Association, and even Jamie Oliver.
A new focus on obesity prevention
The Greens would introduce this measure as part of a broader obesity prevention strategy which includes measures to work with the community on effective ways to improve our diets and increase physical activity.
• Mandate clear food labelling laws to ensure families have accessible information about the food they buy and encourage reformulation of the least healthy products.
• Introduce effective restrictions on advertising of junk food to children and young people.
• Work with communities to ensure our urban environments support physical activity through better planning including $250 million annual Active Transport Fund for bikes and walking infrastructure, to cut pollution, reduce traffic congestion and encourage physical activity.
• Invest $20m to support disadvantaged families to assist with costs associated with children's sport and exercise to encourage uptake of physical activity from a young age.
Sugar in Queensland
Any impacts on Queensland’s domestic sugar production is expected to be minimal, since most domestically produced sugar is exported, and the proportion of Australian sugar used in sugar-sweetened drinks is small.
Queensland produces 95% of Australian sugar, and exports 80% of that. The remaining domestically used sugar is shared across all products containing sugar – and much goes to specific companies like Bundaberg Rum. We know that the biggest player – CocaCola Amatil, imports sugar syrup for use in some of their drink products.
To fully understand the amount of Australian sugar in these drinks, these big multinational junk food producers would need to publicly release the figures.