Magazine of the Socialist Party, Australian section of the CWI

Sugar Tax: Not such a sweet idea

Many people are asking if Australia should follow the UK and introduce a Sugar tax? Socialists say ‘no’.

At the moment the junk food industry in Australia is allowed to actively encourage people to consume excess amounts of sugar through prolific advertisement, including utterly unconscionable marketing targeted at children.

These advertising lures are designed to trick people into eating their sugar-laden foods. While this practice of dietary manipulation for profit is allowed to continue, it is absurd that the government could consider financially penalising consumers – both the victims of unhealthy diets and people seeking small luxuries in moderation – rather than the reckless manufacturers and their peddlers.

‘Consumption taxes’, such as the UK Sugar Tax, are blunt fiscal instruments designed to impede certain economic activities without actually addressing their true causes. Such excises are appealing to governments because they raise some much needed coin but consumption levies are a regressive form of taxation which inevitably hit the poorest the hardest.

It will be the public, not the junk food companies responsible, that end up paying the costs of the new tax. Consumers have already paid with their health; they should not be forced to pay more with their wallets too.

A Sugar tax should not be used as a quick fix for a government unwilling to tackle the real issue: a fight with the junk food industry and their advertising agencies. The government should instead ban all junk food advertisement – especially those targeting children – and confront the sugar dealers, not the sugar users.

By Greg Bradshaw