The sneering elites and their fat bogan tax

Last week the good people at Centre for Authoritarian Ideas (otherwise known as the Grattan Institute) released a report suggesting that Australia should have a sugar tax. The Grattan Institute said in its media release:

“The best option is an excise tax of 40 cents per 100 grams of sugar, on all non-alcoholic, water-based drinks that contain added sugar.

Such a tax would increase the price of a two-litre bottle of soft drink by about 80 cents, raise about $500 million a year, and generate a fall of about 15 per cent in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, as consumers switched to water and other drinks not subject to the new tax.

Obesity costs Australian taxpayers more than $5.3 billion a year. Obese people are more likely to go to doctors and be admitted to hospital more often than other people. They are also more likely to be unemployed and therefore paying less tax than the rest of the population.

These costs – more taxpayer dollars spent on healthcare and welfare, and less tax raised – are caused by obesity but borne by the entire community. The new tax would help redress that imbalance.”

This report follows a concerted campaign by Jamie Oliver and other nanny state advocates such as Sarah Wilson author of, “I quit sugar” to introduce a sugar tax. The Greens, never ones to miss an opportunity to sneer at the working class have adopted this stupidity as policy. Even the “Liberal” party has said it’s considering it.

In particular there are two lines of argument made by the Grattan institute that I object to. First, that it is legitimate to limit individual freedom for the sake of the healthcare budget. If the Grattan institute believes that it is unjust for the healthcare system to pay the cost of people’s poor decisions, than they should advocate for the privatisation of healthcare system or some form of adjusted premium system. How many people injure themselves running marathons, playing sports or cycling? All these things costs the healthcare system, yet the media and policy establishment focus on certain life choices and not others.

The second argument I object to is that the claim that obese people are more likely to be unemployed and pay less tax, and that a sugar tax would help redress this. Or put this another way, poor fat people are leaners not lifters. The level of hypocrisy of the regressive left is astounding, when Joe Hockey made similar arguments about the burden of taxation the same policy elite screamed murder.

It’s also very interesting that this sugar tax is a tax on non-alcoholic drinks and not other products with large amounts of sugar. According to Coke’s website there is 11g per 100g of sugar in a can of Coke. So that’s 38.5g in a can of coke. Now according to some estimates the average acai bowl has 40g of sugar in it. Of course an acai bowl have far more nutritional value than a can of coke, but, it goes to show what a blunt instrument sin taxes are.

This kind of middle class sneering at working plebs isn’t new. George Orwell wrote about it in The Road to Wigan Pier:

“The miner’s family spend only ten pence a week on green vegetables and ten pence half-penny on milk (remember that one of them is a child less than three years old), and nothing on fruit; but they spend one and nine on sugar (about eight pounds of sugar, that is) and a shilling on tea. The half-crown spent on meat might represent a small joint and the materials for a stew; probably as often as not it would represent four or five tins of bully beef. The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea, and potatoes – an appalling diet. Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn’t. […] When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty’.”

I’m sure that the sneering elites would love Damo and Shaza to start baking their own gluten-free pumpkin bread. But, in reality that won’t happen. The truth is healthy choices are already cheap and available. Normal non-organic fruit and vegetables are far cheaper than processed foods and already exempt from the GST. Water is practically free and yet people still drink Coke. Maybe because they like it. I would recommend that families buy a Sodasteam and substitute sodawater for Coke, but since the left boycott Israel that’s probably not allowed either.

Fundamentally, this proposed sugar tax isn’t really a sugar tax at all. Socially acceptable sugar consumption won’t be taxed, in reality what is proposed is a fat bogan tax. They won’t be taxing vegan raw cheesecakes made with rice syrup. In a free society people should be able to make their own life choices. Concerns about public health are a small fig leaf of an argument, once removed all you will find is bigotry.

[Hat tip to Brendan O’Neill and Alex Massie for the Orwell quote]

This article also was published by the Spectator.

69 Comments on "The sneering elites and their fat bogan tax"

  1. sneering libertines and their authoritarian suggested posts ?

  2. Hahahahaha! Develop diabetes, lose limbs, eyesight and generally become overweight and unhealthy, unable to enjoy life to the fullest, before breaking nurses backs and costing the health system millions in extra costs. “Sneering elites”, if you say so. Hahahahaha!

    • But Tim, these rabid libertarians don’t believe in “health systems” that benefit society, in fact they don’t even believe in society. It should be abolished along with taxes. Of course if you were to steal some money from one, or slander one, or shoot one with your semi-automatic rifle – you would hear their whining on the other side of the universe.

  3. I wouldn’t object IF they taxed EVERYTHING that contained sugar – who knows that ‘healthy’ yoghurt contains more sugar (as a percentage) than ‘unhealthy’ pre- praperd custard?All processed food contains an extraordinary amount of sugar and/or salt as a preservative, half the so called ‘healthy’ cereals on the shelf are simply vehicles to convey sugar. Tax it all or tax none, and then NO tax on fresh fruit and vegetables, raw meat and eggs or flour.

    • I totally agree, Having been recently diagnosed with diabetes it, meaning I have to read all the labels, it is astonishing how much sugar almost all food items contain. Those touted as “healthy” are some of the worst offenders.

    • Tim Castle I read food labels because my daughter has a ton of food allergies and intolerances and virtually every processed food has sugar right up near the top (not one of her problem foods fortunately for us).

    • Soft drinks are a great place top start though, due to their inordinate amount of refine sugar and their total lack of any nutritional value.

    • Steve Savage yes but the biggest problem – if you are trult interested in HEALTH not revenue raising is NO ONE believes soft drinks are healthy, but many many people choose ‘healthy’ options from the supermarket which are actually laden with sugar – especially if they are fat free and these contribute much more to obesity than anything else.

  4. The purported ‘argument’ that poor people drink more soft drink is a statistical fact. I know ‘Libertines’ don’t like facts, but there you are.

    • Yes but rich people drink more alchohol,They just like it flash, and without removing the tax from REAL healthy foods you are NOT going to change their eating habits NOR can you claim it is anything more than another money grab from the low end of town. (Yes I know alcohol already has high taxes as does tabacco).

    • Not sure if the statistics back up your statement, but don’t let that stop you.

    • Janet Hogan If you “know that alcohol already has high taxes as does tabacco (sic)” and you say that “rich people drink more alcohol” remind me what your argument is again?

  5. tax sugar they said it’ll make you fat they said

  6. A great big new tax to be introduced by the high taxing big spending conservative government

  7. Firstly…what type of sugar is involved? There are many sugars. Secondly, the prices of alcoholic drinks and tobacco have been inflated many times but their consumption is still widespread and continues to be so. So much for a deterrent. Lastly, to the Grattan Institute….go bag your heads.

  8. We have ENOUGH Nanny laws. Stop it already. We are grown ups. We do not need the govt to tell us what to eat, how to think or anything else. Back Off!

  9. We need a lot less government intrusion in our lives, not more.

  10. This tax means $100 pavlovas

  11. “The second argument I object to is that the claim that obese people are more likely to be unemployed and pay less tax, and that a sugar tax would help redress this.” – I’m not sure if that’s the argument (at least Í’ve never heard this being articulated by anyone). I support the tax on sugar because I think of it more as a way to help people to eat less sugar (the same way that the tax on tobacco helps people to quit smoking by pushing up the price of cigarettes). Clearly, everyone would benefit from having less sugar.

    Furthermore, the fast food and junk food companies are clearly making a killing. I don’t have an objection to some of that revenue being diverted into government coffers where it is much more likely to be used for the public good.

    • The only people a sugar tax ‘helps’ to eat less sugar are the people with such low incomes that the higher price makes soft drink unaffordable. People with plenty of disposable income will eat/drink it regardless.

      Your point that you think the soft drink company’s profits should be used for public good doesn’t make sense, because the tax would be on top of the existing price and has nothing to do with their profits (except of course if their sales decrease substantially in which case that lost profit is money removed from the economy). Maybe the soft drink companies will reduce their own profit margin and absorb the cost of the tax, in which case the tax will have NO affect on sugar consumption.

    • Nicola Wright I’m not sure that it’s only low income people who will eat less sugar, though. I think the point is that the cost of junk food will approach the cost of healthy food. I mean, even if you have a high level of disposable income, you are more likely to eat healthy if both healthy and unhealthy food has a similar price (well, maybe not high, but median income). I think it’s more about pushing up the price of sugar stuff to make it approach the price of healthy stuff.

      Of course, this begs the question of what are poor people supposed to do but I personally believe in income redistribution so I guess we will just have to increase the social safety net:)

    • Boris Feigin “the cost of junk food will approach the cost of healthy food”. I’m pretty sure a sugary muffin already costs more than an apple.

      I suggest that people rich and poor be left to make their own decisions about food consumption without being manipulated by lifestyle taxes.

    • Nicola Wright I think if we compare street food prices, the apple may cost more:) Salads are definitely through the roof, at least in Sydney, hehe:)

      I respect your point of view. For myself, I think that people are not able to stop themselves from doing something that will bring them harm in the long run so a bit of social engineering never goes amiss:)

    • Boris Feigin “Clearly, everyone would benefit from having less < >”. There’s the fundamental problem right there. There’s so many “bad” things that we need protection from, sloth for example. You can’t ban everything, take control of your own life and let the rest of us do they same (or not). Stop seeking control over others, make your own choices, not ours please.

  12. If the government didn’t prohibit and restrict nearly everything and anything under the sun, we wouldn’t have this sugar tax. Australia is already a very boring place to live, we don’t need to make it even more boring.

  13. jst another tax grab disguised as a health policy, cigg tax generates 8 billion bucks in taxes but treating smoking related disease and illnesss costs about 500 million remember their justification was to make smokers pay for their medical costs its all a scam

  14. This is obviously a PR piece on behalf of the sugar industry and companies like CocaCola. Why should they be allowed to poison the public at will and let everyone else pay for it? They should not. Get off my feed creeps!

  15. The new insult-sneering elites. What makes them sneering elites? Surely a group of largely white men in white collared occupations writing about others while espousing individualism over society and repealing 18C because of course nobody really should take offense at insult are the sneering elites? There, if you can call others sneering elites, then I can call you one as well.

    • Ironically, your comment would fall foul of 18C.

    • You’re just running away from the hypocrisy

    • We’ve never said that nobody should take offence. We just don’t see a role for the state in censoring what people say.

    • I know exactly what you are saying, and I disagree; at any rate my comment is to the claim of who is the ‘sneering elite’ in the title Post-Trump, it is thrown by anyone who wishes to have a go at what is perceived to be the left. Yet the elite I see, and often the self-righteous sneering ones tend to proudly wear the libertarian lapel on their chest. Some may well say that is an unfair characterisation, but hey, since it is a label being thrown willy-nilly, why not throw it back at the ones yelling it from the rooftops?

    • ” if you can call others sneering elites, then I can call you one as well.”. No problem. See, the system works well without speech police..

    • This is a typical fallacy pushed by your side of politics; that 18c can be used to attack anyone on any flimsy excuse. Yet the fact that overly sensitive ppl have tried to use it & have been rebuked proves full well that marginal claims will get short thrift from the legal system. That is a very different kettle of fish from serious cases of injurious statements. Subjective granted, which is why 18c should be reviewed to see if it should be watered down. I am certainly own to that . But certainly not repealed.

    • Unfortunately 18c is subjective, is applied inconsistently, doesn’t achieve what it sets out to do, and the expense of the process means it’s really just a shakedown service on behalf of the offended. But worst of all, it rewards people to think of themselves as children, incapable of handling an insult and encouraged to find offence at every turn. It should be repealed for the sake of all, but amendment will at least reduce some of the damage.

    • It is pretty juvenile to think that anyone who takes offence is acting like a child (no pun intended). Let the courts decide. It is also your opinion that it is a shakedown service of the offended, as if it is written in the stars that no insult is deserving of legal correction. The courts are doing a fine job, as we’ve seen recently, throwing out superfluous and overly-sensitive cases. That then allows for a review and watering down of 18c. But to repeal and remove the right of legal redress to a significant insult can raise unintended consequence. It could lead to vigilante justice for instance that ends up costing society more in the long-run. I can perfectly foresee myself getting violent with a racist bastard shouting me down at McDonalds for speaking Indonesian to my friend as ‘this is Australia’ (1997 in the queen street mall) if my only redress is to shout back since if I take offence I am only being childish, and besides the coppers will now tell me that I just have to put up with it. The idea that we should give as hard as we take is theoretically very nice but the largely representative white, middle class male libertarian sneering elite clearly does not live in the real world. A properly run legal system is the best place to adjudicate on the merits or demerits of a supposed insult, especially once the parliament waters down and disallows what can be deemed as being ‘less serious’ insults.

  16. Obesity is Australia’s number one epidemic!

  17. NOBODY taxes my daily lard!

  18. There is a silly logic that goes A. ” I want to regulate corproate activity(to avoid monopolies and so forth). I am into regulation, so I should definitely support this regulation of personal freedom” . There is an equally silly logic that goes B. ” I want freedom for the individual to the greatest extent possible. I am into freedom, so I support unregulated corporate activity”. Wake up Australia.. too much time in the sun !

  19. I find the use of “elites” in this article intentionally misleading.. Are we talking about the heads of corporations selling sugary drinks and foods?. Not at all. The faux working class author means folks much lower down the social pyramid ; scientists, regulators: it seems anyone who might be better educated. The freedom of choice argument is bollocks. Try buying sugar free food at your supermarket. Cereals are full of it. I have diabetes. Libertarians are welcome to choose to die from it.

    • Alan it looks like you’re of the opinion that science says that sugar intake leads to diabetes. This hasn’t been proven and there are studies that do not show any link.

      This is why social engineering policies based on science, are ill-conceived because science is continually making new findings and realising that earlier assumptions were wrong.

      The following study recommends a moderate amount of sugar can safely be consumed without being at risk for development of type II diabetes.

      “In our large cohort of 38,480 initially healthy postmenopausal women followed for an average of 6 years, we accrued 918 incident cases of type 2 diabetes and found no definitive influence of sugar intake on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

      http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/4/1008.full

    • Errrr not sure what you read. I read Alan as saying he HAS diabetes. Therefore controlling his sugar intake is problematic. Nowhere does he even suggest sugar leading to diabetes. Strange link to make.

  20. anyone who speaks on the behalf of others without an invitation see themselves as elites

  21. Well I am sneering at liberty works. The fact is obesity kills and takes up resources in our healthcare system.
    Try and reduce sugar intake by increasing its cost. Seems fair unless you want to fund healthcare by increasing income or company taxes.

    • Can you provide any evidence that sugar intake directly causes obesity? I believe the jury is still out on obesity causes.

      Do you think anyone but very poorest are going to reduce their sugar intake because of a few cents added in tax? It’s a tax grab disguised as saving us from ourselves.

    • I”m going to quote from this article because they say it better than I ever could:

      “The outlook that the scientist and the doctor know best is at best a cop-out from making moral choices for ourselves. More and more, however, it has become an excuse for the authorities to remove those choices altogether. No matter how lurid the scare stories are, we should not submit to this fearmongering, lifestyle authoritarianism.

      “http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/10_myths_about_sugar/14526#.WD-V86J96lM

    • Nicola Wright several very good studies link sugar to obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure.
      The US per capita is 60 lbs if sugar a year. Not including fruit juice.
      What are the numbers for those medical issues.

    • If you want to eat less sugar, then eat less sugar.

  22. I am not at all for the nanny state, but to try and combat diabeties, obesety, tooth decay, mood swings bought on by sugar rushes and lows, bloody beaudy, bring on the sugar tax.

  23. it’s an individuals right to choose what they eat. nobody should have the right to coerce other people into eating what they believe is right by penalising them with taxes

  24. It would be funny if people started drinking beer and cider because of a tax brought in on soft drinks.

  25. Everything is taxed…..now all they can do is tax the taxed stuff again.

  26. mabye consider moving to canada

  27. Thank you for investing money so that this poorly written, poorly thought out argument appeared on my FB feed. Sugar is bad for you, in the same way alcohol and cigarettes are bad for you. If an increased intake of sugary drinks or processed sugars leads to adverse health outcomes (which it does) and these health outcomes put a strain on resources (hospitals, medicine, doctors) then why shouldn’t that cost be included in the price of your choices? OR come up with an alternative solution for the huge obesity crises Australia faces.

  28. A lot of people here want to tax sugar but not white bread or pasta.

    Do you people ever feel the slightest twinge of shame at your own ignorance?

  29. Well has the bureaucracy notified there are MP sitting up you bet they are Gorge Christensen After the election it was revealed that Christensen failed to resign from his position on the Mackay Regional Council before the election, putting himself at risk of high court action which would not allow him to take office as the member for Dawson.[10][11] Previously, independent Phil Cleary and Liberal Jackie Kelly have been faced with a by-election after failing to resign from public service positions before winning their respective seats. Despite this, several constitutional law experts said it was unlikely any legal challenge against Christensen would be successful because the constitution ban on “officers of profit under the crown” being elected to federal parliament would most likely not apply to local government councillors.[12]
    In July 2011, Christensen joined other Liberal National Party MPs in driving the entire Bruce Highway as part of a campaign to highlight problem areas on the road and to secure more funding for the Bruce Highway from the Commonwealth.[13] During the road trip, one of the vehicles in the convoy of MPs hit what Christensen described as a “crater of a pothole” resulting in a tyre blowout.[14]
    In June 2011 Christensen drew criticism from fellow MPs for his manner of attack on Labor’s shutdown of the live cattle trade to Indonesia. Christensen implied that Indonesia’s religion (the dominant Islamic culture) is to blame for the torture of common cattle and that Australian farmers should not receive criticism for Indonesian mistreatment of live cattle exported to the nation.[15]
    In September 2012 he accused the National Health and Medical Research Council of demonising the sugar industry due to their recommendation to minimise sugar intake. The strong defence of the sugar industry earned Christensen the title of “sugar plum fairy”.[16]
    Christensen launched a campaign in October 2012 to persuade the producers of science fiction television series Doctor Who to film the program in Australia in celebration of the 50th anniversary of its first screening on Australian television on 12 January 2015. Two Doctor Who stars have publicly supported Christensen’s campaign.[17]
    Second term 2013-2016[edit]

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