Home > Public health group rejects push to tax healthy food

Public health group rejects push to tax healthy food

Editorial
article image

Peak non-government organisation for public health in Australia, the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) has urged State and Territory leaders around the nation to reject the idea of applying the GST to fresh food.

President of the PHAA, Professor Heather Yeatman said that applying the GST to healthy foods will make them unaffordable to many, and will lead to further pressure on the Nation's public health system.

“Diet-sensitive chronic disease due to unhealthy eating is now the greatest factor affecting overall burden of disease in Australia, greater than tobacco… and obesity. We need incentives to eat healthy food – not disincentives," she said.

Yeatman says that since 2000, the cost of basic healthy foods has been increasing at a much faster rate than unhealthy food.

“Over the last three years the cost of fruit and vegetables rose by 8-13 percent compared to only a three percent increase in price for snacks and confectionery. Some states are even worse off: vegetables increased in price by 24 percent in Canberra, 16 percent in Brisbane and Sydney and 11 percent in Perth. The cost of fruit went up by 19 percent in Perth, 16 percent in Canberra and 12 percent in Brisbane. And this is without a GST on top. In contrast, the price of junk food only increased by one-six percent in these cities over the same time period.

WA Premier Colin Barnett last week threw his support behind the proposal to tax fruit and vegetables, stating that it was ‘silly’ not apply the GST to healthy foods.

“This is a very simplistic economic view with potentially catastrophic consequences for the most vulnerable in our society and for our health system,” said Yeatman. “Even now, some people simply cannot afford to eat a healthy diet. Already welfare recipients in WA would need to allocate half of their disposable income to buy exclusively healthy food, while the average income earner would need to spend about 16 percent of their income.

“When funding has already been cut to many of our preventive health programs, now is not the time to add further to the burden of disease. All Australians are affected. The GST exemption for healthy foods in Australia must be retained.”

photo credit: La Citta Vita via photopincc

Newsletter sign-up

The latest products and news delivered to your inbox