Federal Government 'has no plans' to implement sugar tax

UPDATED: THE Federal Government has reiterated it has no plans to implement a sugar tax despite recent speculation, according to the chairman of Canegrowers Australia and Queensland.

Paul Schembri, a canegrower of more than four decades, said delegation meetings with Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash and others in Canberra on Thursday (yesterday) were successful.

Mr Schembri said Senator Nash, Minister for Regional Development and Rural Health, guaranteed him a sugar tax was not incoming and there was no plans to implement such a measure.

"She was very much across the issue and it was a very constructive meeting," Mr Schembri said.

"Senator Nash's advice was clear and unambiguous: The government's position is a sugar tax is a simplistic solution to a complex problem and that the Federal Government will continue to focus on the totality of health and wellbeing rather than targeting a particular product, sugar.

"It's very clear the government has no plans for a sugar tax or soft drink tax."

Mr Schembri said the meeting would be a boon for confidence in the Mackay sugar industry, and further abroad.

"Growers will take a lot of heart and encouragement out of that announcement," he said.

"I think what was helpful was we actually had a face-to-face meeting with the minister...and she gave the clearest signal to date there'd be no sugar tax.

"The message has spread that we had the meeting and I've had some feedback from growers. They feel relieved that at least we have a clear enunciation of policy from the government.

"What these things do, is they're destabilising for industry and if there is a threat hanging over our industry of a sugar tax it decimates confidence and often investment."

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Mr Schembri said about 40-50,000 jobs in Australian are reliant on the sugar industry and he said much of the sugar produced was for the export market.

"Since the 1980s to where we are now, 2016, domestic sales have been static at around 1 million tonnes," he said.

"Yet we have had an increase in population from 15 million to 23 million and so we find it illogical at how people are pointing the finger at sugar for increasing levels of obesity, heart disease and diabetes when it appears to me less sugar per capita is being consumed.

"We need to get to the bottom of it...I'm heartened the government won't be swayed by dodgy science, but needs clear and objective science in front of it."

Dawson MP George Christensen has continually noted his opposition to a sugar tax and stated on April 18 his stance was backed by the Coalition minister responsible for food policy.

He also stated at the time Senator Nash would not support the measure either.

Considering the possible early election, potentially on July 2, Mr Schembri said, as far as he was aware, Labor had not made any similar guarantees and had not stated its position to him.

Public and media speculation about a sugar tax ramped up recently when celebrity chef Jamie Oliver called on Australia to implement a sugar tax.

It followed the UK Government recently introducing a consumer sugar tax on soft drinks.

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