Australian of the Year Dr James Muecke’s proposal for a sugar tax has been rebuffed by a North Queensland canegrowers association.
Australian of the Year Dr James Muecke’s proposal for a sugar tax has been rebuffed by a North Queensland canegrowers association.

Canegrowers snub appeal for sugar tax

Australian of the Year Dr James Muecke's proposal for a sugar tax has been rebuffed by a North Queensland canegrowers association.

The South Australian eye surgeon was named Australian of the Year 2020 on Saturday night, in recognition for his work in preventing blindness in Australia and overseas.

Dr Muecke has called for a tax on sugary drinks to help prevent the leading cause of blindness in adults, type 2 diabetes, which now affects at least 1.2 million Australians.

Canegrowers Herbert River chairman Michael Pisano said he was against the tax, and was unconvinced it would lower consumption of sugary drinks.

"The countries that have to my knowledge introduced a sugar tax, have only made a small dint in consumption," he said. "It's a very simplistic view to say we want to increase the cost and that's going to solve everyone's problems.

"I don't agree with it at all."

Mr Pisano said if sugar was taxed there could be negative impacts felt by the region's canegrowers. "Sugar is a low profit margin industry, it would be hard to start putting extra costs on," he said.

"Tobacco and alcohol are heavily taxed, and yet consumption hasn't stopped for those products."

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has rejected calls for a tax on sugary drinks.

"We don't think that driving up the price of household goods for families is the way of achieving this outcome," he told ABC radio today.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said no "single initiative" would solve the obesity problem

"I hope that through Health and Wellbeing Queensland we can start working together, industry, health promoters, state and federal governments, to change what makes poor people and indigenous people more likely to be fat," he said.

Last year Mr Miles told a national obesity summit that individuals shouldn't solely be blamed for being fat.

"It lets the fast food industry and sugary drink manufacturers off the hook," he said.

"You have flooded our suburbs with dollar frozen drinks … this the sugar equivalent of flooding our suburbs with crack cocaine."


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