Dietitians Association of Australia GST on Fresh Food Interview
Fresh fruit and vegetables are currently exempt from the GST, and nutrition experts want it to stay that way.
According to the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), adding the GST to fresh foods, like fruit and vegetables, would impact on the health of many Australians and blow future health care budgets.
The warning, from the nation's peak nutrition body, comes as the Federal Government considers submissions to its -Re:think. Better tax, better Australia' consultation.
DAA Spokesperson Julie Gilbert said a GST on fresh food would be -short-sighted' and would make it harder for all Australians, but especially vulnerable groups, to access healthy food.
She added that any extra revenue from a widened GST on fresh food would likely be eaten up by extra health care costs needed to manage chronic disease down the track.
-We need to be making it easier for Australians to eat the kinds of foods that protect against cancer, heart disease and mental illness.'
-The Federal Government must consider the potential effect on the nation's health before making changes to Australia's tax system,' said Ms Gilbert, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
According to our last National Nutrition Survey, only around one in ten Australians (6.8%) aged two years and over eat enough vegetables, and just over half (54%) eat enough fruit.
Ms Gilbert said price hikes on fresh foods would likely be more of a barrier to good health among people of low socioeconomic status and other vulnerable groups, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
-The Australians who can least afford any increased costs to fresh foods stand to lose the most. These are the groups most affected by nutrition-related diseases,' said Ms Gilbert.
An Australian Bureau of Statistics survey shows that low income earners spend five times as much of their income on food as people in the highest income quintile.
According to the survey, the typical family of two adults and two children, relying entirely on welfare support, needs to spend around a third of their household income to buy an adequate healthy food basket, compared with only nine per cent in families with the highest average disposable income.
-Access to adequate nutritious food is a basic human right and adding the GST to fresh, healthy food puts this right at risk for many Australians,' said Ms Gilbert.
Interview with the Dietitians Association of Australia
Question: Why is it most important that GST not be added to fresh fruit and vegetables?
Dietitians Association of Australia: The Dietitians Association of Australia supports initiatives that assist families to choose fruits and vegetables, this includes making them more affordable so that they can be eaten every day.
Question: How will adding GST to fresh fruit and vegetables impact the health of Australians?
Dietitians Association of Australia: From the most recent Australian Health Survey we know only 1 in 12 (8.2%) Australians are meeting the recommendations for vegetables, and only about half for fruit. There needs to be a focus on improving the intake of these foods, and making them more expensive will not help to achieve this.
Question: Do you believe increasing the price of fresh fruit and vegetables will mean many Australian families cannot afford to eat them?
Dietitians Association of Australia: Increasing the price of fresh fruits and vegetables will definitely make it harder for Australians to afford these nutritious foods, particularly vulnerable groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and low income families.
Question: What vulnerable groups are most at risk if GST is added to fresh fruit and vegetables?
Dietitians Association of Australia: This depends on age, gender and whether the woman is lactating but the general recommendations for Australian adults is two serves of fruit, and five to six serves of vegetables per day. For more detailed information on this you can check out the Australian Dietary Guidelines website.
Question: What diseases are we at increased risk of if we don't consume enough fresh fruit and vegetables?
Dietitians Association of Australia: Fruits and vegetables are essential in a healthy diet as they are low in energy and rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Evidence shows a diet high in vegetables, fruit and legumes can lower people's risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
Question: Do you believe GST will be added to fresh fruit and vegetables?
Dietitians Association of Australia: This is something for the government to decide. However, DAA wants to make sure the those making this decision have all of the information to make the best one possible. DAA aims to make sure they are aware of the impact this decision could have on the long-term health of the community and to realise that the extra revenue gained would likely need to be spent on increased health-care costs to manage chronic disease in the future.
Interview by Brooke Hunter