Fresh push for soft drink tax

Dr Sophie Scamps is demanding the government introduce a tax on sugary drinks. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

A GP turned politician is calling on the government to implement a tax on sugary drinks amid a growing diabetes epidemic, which she has labelled a “tragedy in motion”.

Independent MP for Makellar Dr Sophie Scamps has urged the Albanese Government to immediately introduce a levy on sugar-sweetened drinks and restrict the marketing and advertising of unhealthy food to children.

Dr Scamps plea comes as about 1.5 million Australians are known to be living with a form of diabetes.

Dr Sophie Scamps is urging the government to act immediately. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Her calls also follow the tabling of a landmark report on the state of diabetes within Australia, which is aimed to reduce the “burden” chronic disease places on Australia’s health care system.

House Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport chair Dr Mike Freelander said the number of Australians living with diabetes is expected to rise.

“By placing particular emphasis on prevention, the Committee is also seeking to raise awareness of major risk factors associated with the disease, such as obesity,” he said.

The Committee made 23 recommendations targeted at strengthening the governments response to diabetes and obesity.

Dr Scamps said the government must take the “two most effective steps” to combat the diabetes epidemic, which include placing taxes on sugary drinks and the restriction of marketing and advertising of unhealthy food to kids on online and gaming platforms.

Dr Scamps said initiatives that only target individual behaviour “will never be enough”.

“We have a duty to protect children from predatory marketing of unhealthy foods. Our children simply cannot escape unhealthy food marketing – it is ubiquitous online, and across TV and radio,” she said.

Dr Scamps has called for the government to adopt two key measures. Picture: Supplied.
Dr Scamps has called for the government to adopt two key measures. Picture: Supplied.

Dr Scamps said evidence produced by other nations that introduced similar measures shows that levies push companies to alter their products to contain lower sugar content.

“In the long run this will save individuals immense health costs.” she said.

The MP labelled the opposing argument that levies could disadvantage certain Australian as “short sighted”, as the same groups of people will be the individuals “hit by future medical costs”.

“How do you put a price on a child’s wellbeing?” she asked.

Some 40 countries have already introduced similar measures, including the UK, Norway, Mexico and Chile.

“It will just take guts for the Albanese government to stand up to the powerful soft drink and

junk food industry,” Dr Scamps said.