Australian women are still paying a monthly tax for being female almost 20 years after the introduction of the GST. And it’s bloody annoying
More than half of goods and services purchased in Australia, including sunscreen, toothpaste, condoms and lubricant, are exempt from the GST under their classification as essential health goods.
Tampons? Those are a luxury, on par with shaving cream, as then health minister Michael Woodridge claimed when the GST was introduced in 2000.
“Well, as a bloke, I’d like shaving cream exempt, but I’m not expecting it to be,” he said.
Eighteen years on, Australians – women and men – are still fighting to axe the tampon tax.
Bauer Media, the publisher of Money, this week launched the No Gender Selective Tax campaign.
More than 30 Bauer Media brands, including The Australian Women’s Weekly and ELLE, with their long history of driving cultural change for women, have united behind the petition on bloodyannoying.com to abolish GST on sanitary items.
“When you consider women who are homeless or living in poverty, the GST makes an already expensive but essential item even more so,” says Money editor Effie Zahos.
Scrapping the tampon tax would save Australian women an estimated $1000 over their lifetime.
A 2017 survey by the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute found that girls in remote Indigenous communities were missing school because they could not afford pads and tampons and that many remote schools lacked a bin to dispose of sanitary items.
Rochelle Courtenay is the founder of Share the Dignity, a charity that has collected more than 700,000 packets of donated pads and tampons for women in need.
“We’ve paid over $300,000 – all of us as we’ve donated one packet here and there – in tax and GST that shouldn’t be there, for women who can’t afford it anyway,” she told Bauer Media’s Now To Love.
The GST had not yet been introduced when Australians began calling for the repeal of the tampon tax, with at least eight petitions to parliament in 2000.
In 2009, Coles threw its support behind the cause with a 10% discount on tampons.
A 2013 change.org petition started by Sophie Liley drew almost 70,000 signatures, while a petition kicked off by Subeta Vimalarajah in 2015 has more than 104,000 signatures to date.
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek in April labelled the tampon tax a “dumb decision we just have to fix”, and said Labor would abolish the GST on sanitary products if it wins the next federal election.
“Australia levies GST on tampons but we don’t apply it to Viagra,” she said. “Only a bunch of blokes sitting around a table would come to the conclusion that sanitary pads are anything other than an essential good.”
Sanitary products account for just $30 million in GST revenue, which Labor says will be recouped by taxing alternative therapies including herbalism, iridology and aromatherapy.
The Senate last month passed the Greens’ bill to scrap the tampon tax but a lack of Coalition support means it is unlikely to pass the House of Representatives.
Queensland LNP senator Amanda Stoker dismissed the bill as a “nice political gesture”, the ABC reported.
“What’s not front of mind for women in this country is the approximately $11 a year they pay in GST on tampons.”
What Australians are saying
Reducing GST on sanitary products is vital as menstruation is an undeniable aspect of many women’s lives, something we cannot choose to afford or not. For many, sanitary products are just another thing to pile into your trolley. But imagine what it is like for a low-income woman to fork out between $4 and $10 a month. When my weekly grocery budget was only $50 a week, sanitary items amounted to almost 10% of a weekly shop. Some women might need to make hard choices between food and their basic hygienic dignity. Or go back to rags. – Serina Bird, blogger, msfrugalears.com
I have never believed in affirmative action, I just believe if your work to the best of your ability you will be rewarded on your merits however more and more I realise that there are a number of ‘little’ things in society that do add up to giving women a disadvantage. The tampon tax is one of these. It is a small financial cost but it has a bigger message. It represents another daily demonstration of the way women are treated differently. Can anyone really argue that dealing with a natural bodily function in a hygienic way is a luxury and hence have a luxury tax applied to it? – Jane Slack-Smith, founder, Investors Choice Mortgages
GST on sanitary products should be abolished for two reasons. Firstly, GST is not intended to be a tax on essential items. Sanitary products are essential items so imposing GST on them is wrong. Secondly, imposing this tax is essentially imposing a tax on 50% of the population and exempting the other 50%. That’s not a tax it’s a charge on women and that’s unfair. – Mark Chapman, head of communications, H&R Block
Access to education is a basic human right. Making sanitary products more affordable and accessible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls will help improve their access to education, and thus their opportunity for achieving their aspirations and potential. NAIDOC Week has recently highlighted the incredible achievements of so many deadly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who, because of past government policies were locked out of our education system. If we want equality as an outcome then we need to enact equity – giving people what they need to be successful. An important part equity is understanding past wrongs and their inter generation effects. Let us do everything we can to support the aspirations of our younger generations who have so much to offer the future of this country. – Janine Mohamed, CEO of Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives
Given the regressive nature of GST, we exempt essential items such as fresh food to limit the negative impact on those on a low income. Given that they’re an essential item, sanitary products should be treated in the same way. It will make a small difference, but given that women are disproportionately low income earners and they are the only ones affected by this tax, removing GST on sanitary products would be a small step towards levelling the financial playing field between men and women. – Sarah Hunter, economist
Women are 2.5 times more likely to spend their retirement in poverty – that’s a confronting statistic. There’s many reasons why women face poorer financial outcomes in retirement, such as the gender pay gap and stepping out of the work force to care for children or other family members. More needs to be done across a range of measures to improve women’s overall economic security and close the super gap, but even small changes to tax and policy settings can help. Removing the tax on feminine hygiene products would provide a little bit more money in the pockets of Australian women and when it comes to improving financial outcomes, every little bit counts! – Nerida Cole, head of advice, Dixon Advisory
Say yes to abolishing the GST on sanitary products
Visit bloodyannoying.com to sign the petition and help end the tax on women.