Sugar tax action in the Port Macquarie-Hastings region

Against the move: Assistant Minister for Health and the Local Member for Lyne David Gillespie said while there is no ignoring Australia has an obesity epidemic a tax imposed on sugar won’t fix the issue.
Against the move: Assistant Minister for Health and the Local Member for Lyne David Gillespie said while there is no ignoring Australia has an obesity epidemic a tax imposed on sugar won’t fix the issue.

A Port Macquarie accredited practising dietitian says a sugar tax would help address the obesity epidemic. 

Ms Emma Schwartzkoff said she is disappointed there hasn’t been action in the Port Macquarie-Hastings region to address the issue. 

“Change starts at a local level,” she said. 

“Let's show that we care about the health of our local community with the goal of mobilising change on a national level in the long term.”

Locals from Victorian town Hamilton have recently backed a community campaign for the rollout of a national tax on sugar with soft drinks stripped from the menu at hospitals in the region and a commitment from a dozen other health providers to do the same.

Ms Schwartzkoff said there is a link between the intake of non-nutritive, high sugar beverages and obesity.

“We know that there is a link between obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiac disease, she said.”

“This has a huge impact on the quality of life of the individual and creates pressure on our health care system.”

Ms Schwartzkoff said people have experienced the positive impact a heavy tax can have on behaviour change through the tobacco industry.

“With these facts in mind, I think a sugar tax is a no brainer,” she said. 

Ms Schwartzkoff believes the community would benefit from joining with those like Hamilton to lead the way to mobilise change on a national scale.

Assistant Minister for Health and the Local Member for Lyne David Gillespie said while there is no ignoring Australia has an obesity epidemic a tax imposed on sugar won’t fix the issue. 

“Taxes don’t fix things,” he said.

“While the government introduced the tax on tobacco, it alone wasn’t responsible for reducing the number of people who choose to smoke.” 

He said there have been a number of public campaigns which have run over a time period of 30 to 40 years. 

“It’s now in the popular consciousness that smoking is unhealthy,” he said.

Mr Gillespie said taxing families for food choices would be a ‘nanny state’ response. 

Minister Gillespie said if everyone followed the Australian Dietary Guidelines as well as old attitudes with regards to eating a balanced diet then there wouldn’t be an issue with obesity. 

The Minister practiced as a doctor for 33 years and treated people who were morbidly obese. 

Minister Gillespie said the federal government was working hard to change people’s choices and inform them of healthy decisions.

He gave examples including the federal government’s introduction of the Health Star Rating Program and creating sports programs in schools. 

He said the NSW state government was also addressing health concerns in schools by introducing healthy canteen changes. 

Minister Gillespie said the coalition government would support the sugar tax if it was rational. 

However he believes imposing a sugar tax will just ‘make people cranky’ and won’t result in ‘skinny people’. 

Minister Gillespie said it’s up to the individual and personal choice to monitor caloric intake compared to those which are exerted.