QUESTION: Health levy on sugary drinks

In Question Time, Mark asked the Minister for Health and Wellbeing whether a state health levy on sugary drinks will be introduced, as called for by health experts. 


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Today's Advertiser reports on the latest results from the Cancer Council Australia's National Secondary Students' Diet and Activity Survey. The survey looked at the habits of more than 9,000 students across the country and found that boys were the biggest consumers of sugary drinks, with 22 per cent having a litre or more per week, compared to 11 per cent of girls.

The survey also showed that teens living in low socio-economic areas were more likely to consume high amounts of sugary drinks each week compared to those living in more affluent areas. According to the Cancer Council Australia nutrition expert, Clare Hughes:

"Sugary drinks contribute the most added sugar to Australians' diet and the news that one in six teens consumes more than 5 kg of sugar each year, through sugar-sweetened beverages alone, is alarming."'

On the back of this survey, and other research over many years, the Cancer Council is calling for a 20 per cent health levy on sugary drinks. They are backed by the Australian Medical Association, which also supports a sugar tax. Around the world, 28 jurisdictions have introduced or are planning to introduce sugar taxes, including many European countries, Pacific Island nations and a number of US cities and counties.

However, The Advertiser also reports that the Australian Federal Government has ruled out a sugar tax, claiming that it is a simplistic solution to a complex health problem.

My question to the Minister is:

Given the Federal Government's lack of leadership and refusal to heed expert advice, will the State Government step up to the challenge by introducing a state health levy on sugary drinks, as called for by health experts?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): The Marshall Liberal Government was elected with a firm commitment for no new taxes, and that includes sugar.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Supplementary.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Can we have some order for the Hon. Mr Parnell's supplementary.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: When the Minister said there was a commitment to no new taxes, did he make a specific commitment as well that there would be no new health levies?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): This is a great ploy of the left: redefine every tax with a moral imperative. Let me also make another point, now that the honourable member has given me an opportunity to add dot point 2. Dot point 2 is that I think it would be very unwise for any state to act alone. I appreciate the decision of the Federal Government. These decisions would have to be made at the national level.