Labor, Coalition reject sugary drink tax

Australia's peak medical body has accused Australian politicians of looking after lobby groups rather than their citizens after the Coalition and Labor said they wouldn't support a tax on sugary drinks.

The Australian Medical Association wants the government to tackle the nation's obesity crisis with a tax and advertising bans.

The proposed sugary beverage tax and ban on advertising junk food to children - especially during sporting events - are among the AMA's recommendations in its statement on nutrition in 2018.

The AMA says the government needs to put a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as a priority and deterrence, to force behaviour change and stop people thinking it's normal to eat unhealthy, sugar-processed food daily.

AMA president Dr Michael Gannon says the group believes as many as one in five Australians die from conditions related to poor diet, such as cancer, coronary artery disease and stroke.

It was appalling to sometimes see babies drinking from 600ml bottles of soft drink containing 15 to 20 teaspoons of sugar, he said.

"Obesity is close to overtaking tobacco as the biggest preventable cause of ill health in the community, it is no exaggeration to say sugar is a killer," he told reporters, saying that fact should outweigh any opposition to the tax.

"Governments do need to get tough, they need to realise that they're there to protect the citizens not there to respond to calls of lobby groups.

"We expect resistance from the industry, we will fight the industry on this and it is inevitable over time that the benefits of a taxation on unhealthy foods will become obvious to government."

The Australian Beverages Council, the industry's lobby group, has been fighting criticism of sugary drinks and says there is no evidence a tax will do anything to reduce obesity.

The Coalition insists it's taking the required action to tackle the challenge of obesity and won't sweeten to making a deal that taxes sugary beverages.

"We do not support a new tax on sugar to address this issue," a spokesman for Health Minister Greg Hunt told AAP on Sunday.

He noted the government had taken action by backing labelling laws for ingredients and nutritional information and supported voluntary measures to restrict food marketing to children.

Federal deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek said the federal government should help tackle the "obesity epidemic" in the country but stopped short of supporting the tax

Instead, Ms Plibersek suggested prevention strategies to make sure Australians have healthy lifestyles and make healthy choices.

"We dont want the next generation of Australians to be a generation where life expectancy goes backwards because of avoidable conditions that come with obesity," she said.

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