George Christensen.
George Christensen. Lee Constable

Sugar tax criticised in federal parliament

POLITICIANS on both sides of the House have come out against a potential tax on sugar, after the Tasmanian Greens called for a national tax last week.

The idea for a tax was floated by the Tasmanian Greens in that state's leading newspaper, supported by some state public servants.

But it was criticised by LNP and Labor MPs in the federal parliament on Monday, with those from sugar growing regions hitting out at the proposal.

A notice of motion to support the sugar cane industry was brought by Member for Dawson George Christensen, and gained the support of Paul Neville, Kirsten Livermore and Janelle Saffin.

Mr Christensen said the key to his motion was that the sugar industry had been blamed by some interests for the sole driver of obesity around the nation.

He said he had obtained evidence from numerous public health officials, including the World Health Organisation, that sugar should not be held solely responsible for obesity rates.

"There are some in the nanny state brigade that would have us believe sugar is the devil, and the sole cause of obesity," he said.

"But the reality is it's all about having a balanced diet and getting enough exercise - everything in moderation."

Mr Christensen said Australia was "a nation of adults" and should be treated as such, and even if a tax on high-sugar products was even imposed, it would not deter those intent on consuming a lot of sugar.

Ms Saffin said she understood Mr Christensen's motivation of wanting to protect the sugar industry, agreeing the industry was equally important on the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.

She also said while it was "hard to see the wood for the trees" in the nutrition debate, it was clear good health was about good nutrition and exercise.

"It is incumbent on us to be involved in that debate," she said.

Mr Neville called for "an end to the denigration of sugar as a food product, and let us support the farmers who are having a tough time".

Ms Livermore said the government was working to improve public health, including nutrition, "without having the kind of king-hit on an industry that the member for Dawson is concerned about".