Australia will avoid tax on sugary drinks, shows senate report on obesity epedemic
AUSTRALIA is almost certain to avoid a tax on sugary drinks as Labor confirms in the senate report Obesity Epidemic in Australia that it does not support the levy adopted by 30 other countries.
The Greens-Labor led committee reported last week after a year of investigation, working on the premise that a major contributor to obesity is poor diet and in particular the increased consumption of processed and discretionary foods.
Recommendation 10 calls for the Australian Government to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
But with Labor poised to take government at a May election, the committee’s Labor senators filed a dissenting report
“Labor Senators do not support Recommendation 10,” the report says.
“Labor Senators are particularly concerned that an Australian sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax would likely be regressive, meaning that it would impact lower-income households disproportionately.”
Labor accepts the logic that a SSB tax is likely to reduce consumption and accelerate reformulation efforts, but says it is only one option amongst many to address overweight and obesity and would not be effective without other measures.
Labor says it will continue to monitor the international evidence on SSB taxes.
The SSB tax is one of four key recommendations rejected by Labor in the report, sinking health experts’ hopes for reform in these particular areas.
Advertising curfew rejected
The other three key recommendations rejected by Labor have to do with the marketing and advertising of discretionary foods.
Recommendations 11 and 12 call for the introduction of restrictions on discretionary food and drink advertising on free-to-air television until 9.00pm – rejected.
Labor had problems with the focus on commercial free-to-air television to the exclusion of other platforms where children are increasingly viewing content, and a failure to address the definitional issue around ‘discretionary food and drink’.
It was also concerned that the advertising curfew would impose an uneccessary financial and administrative burden on the providers of free broadcasting services.
Also, Recommendation 13 calls for the Australian Government make mandatory the display of the Health Star Rating for food and beverage products advertised on all forms of media – rejected.
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“Without an agreed and implemented food and drink identification standard to identify discretionary food and drink, it is challenging for the ACMA or the media, advertising and marketing industries to implement a uniform approach, or to undertake economic modelling to estimate the costs or benefits to the prevalence of overweight and obesity, to broadcasters’ revenue, to media audiences (associated with potential change in program quality), the advertising sector and to food and drink manufacturers,” the Labor Senators said.
“For these reasons, Labor Senators do not support Recommendations 11, 12 and 13 and, as an alternative, recommend that the newly established National Obesity Taskforce conduct a comprehensive review of the regulatory framework for food and drink advertising and marketing to children, in conjunction with relevant health, media and advertising bodies, to ensure the framework is fit for purpose in the contemporary media environment and recommends that a food-identification standard be agreed to inform such review and facilitate uniform implementation.
“Such review would be undertaken in conjunction with the ACMA, the AANA and advertising industry, the broadcasting industry and relevant health authorities to:
- ensure that advertising restrictions are based on an agreed and implemented food and drink identification standard in Australia;
- ensure that children and their parents are better informed about the nutritional value of foods and drinks advertised on all forms of media, including through the Health Star Rating system;
- take account of latest evidence and advice on tackling obesity;
- take account of changing patterns of child viewing habits across platforms; and
- take account of the administrative and financial burden of any restrictions on the broadcasting sector.”
The committee has made 22 recommendations, which aim at addressing in a holistic way the complex causes of obesity.
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