The Greens’ leader, Richard Di Natale, has proposed another tax. This is hardly groundbreaking given the progressive party’s penchant for using taxes to conduct their brand of social engineering but this time the targets are Australia’s poorest people.
The suggested 20% tax on all soft drinks and fruit juices would disproportionately hurt low income earners, who are the largest consumers of soft drinks and who cannot afford the freshly-squeezed, ‘no-added-sugar’ brands of fruit juice enjoyed by the wealthy. Regressive taxes, like the GST and the Greens’ proposed sugar tax, cost the poor so much more than the wealthy that even the Greens themselves recognise it – attacking the Coalition for suggesting an increase in the GST last year for precisely this reason. In America, Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders made the same point in response to Hillary Clinton’s proposal of a similar tax on soft drinks, stating he was surprised she “would support this regressive tax”, while in the UK it has been calculated that a 20% tax on these drinks would “have less effect on ate person’s health than walking up a flight of stairs once a day” according to the Institute for Economic Affairs’ Chris Snowdon.
Both the Coalition and Labor have refused to support the tax. Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher stated that such a move was not part of Labor’s health policy and instead referred to a focus on education as a priority. For his part, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann flatly rejected any support for the tax and argued that there were, in fact, some things which remained “the responsibility of individual Australians.”
The Greens have a long history of attempting to use sin taxes and the coercive power of government to force Australians to conform to a particular lifestyle. Taxes and branding laws on cigarettes, alcohol taxes and advertising regulations, vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency standards, even the way we clear vegetation in our own backyards does not escape their watchful eyes. Usually, however, the Greens’ bad ideas are new ones but in this instance Richard Di Natale and the Australian Greens have come up with a suggestion that is not only horrendously unfair to the poor but also a well studied failure to boot.
Eliot Metherell is an intern at the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance