“The tampon tax is a tax on the biology of people who menstruate”
– Greens Senator Janet Rice
Under Australian tax legislation, tampons are classified as luxury goods. However, half the Australian population will tell you that having a period is anything but a luxury – especially having to use a tampon. So, if periods are a part of a woman’s natural bodily functions, why are they classified as luxury goods? Why tax a bodily function? Why tax women, for being women?
Since 2000, Australian women have been paying a 10 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST) on tampons and other period-related sanitary items – classed under current legislation as luxury and non-essential items.
That’s right ladies, according to the Australian government, tampons, cups, pads and everything in between are not essential. In contrast, products such as condoms, sunscreen and even Viagra are exempt from GST, being classified as essential health items.
Labor Treasurer Jackie Trad recently described the so-called tampon tax as “a regressive tax on women…and fundamentally unfair” for taxing women for something they cannot control.
Other words that have been used to describe the tax: unjust, stupid, and most importantly, sexist, to name just a few PG ones. This tax was introduced 18 years ago under the Howard government. It was controversial back then, and remains a hot political topic to this day.
When it was first introduced, protestor groups such as the “menstrual avengers” contested the tax, throwing tampons at Cabinet ministers.
Menstrual Avengers in full swing in February, 2000
In 2015, Joe Hockey made headlines for his statements in support of removing the tampon tax. However, despite commenting on the political importance of the tax’s removal, it failed to gain momentum in parliament.
In 2017, television personality and journalist Carrie Bickmore slammed the tax on The Project with a hilarious rap.
And finally, earlier this month, the tampon tax was once again brought to the forefront of political discussion when Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison announced the Senate had passed the Greens’ bill to axe the tax.
Supporters celebrate the Greens’ bill passing through the Senate
This news followed months of anti-tax discussion led by Morrison who believes, like myself, the tax is inherently sexist. “Legislation in the Australian Parliament in the past may have been made by blokes for blokes but those days have gone”, he stated. Funnily enough, when the original GST legislation was passed, only two out of the twenty Cabinet ministers under the Howard government were women (shocking, I know).
With the Senate passing the Greens’ bill the responsibility of axing the tax now lies in the hands of Australia’s seven states and territories. Of the two major parties, Labor remains in favour of removing the tax, whilst the Liberal government are more hesitant, particularly due to its economic benefits. An estimated $300 million is spent each year on sanitary products. $30 million of which is GST. This potential revenue loss is a key argument for keeping the tax, but if this revenue is the result of taking advantage of women – is it really worth it?
As the Liberals now hold the majority in the House of Representatives, the tax will only be axed if a Liberal member votes differently to their party – an unlikely reality.
Australia is already falling behind other countries that have big wins on the tampon tax front, either reduced and/or removing their taxes. Canada removed their tax in 2015, with France following in similar suit and cutting it to 5.5 per cent, down from 20. A number of America states have also removed their taxes following a largely successful “Period’s are not a Luxury. Period” campaign. And just last month, India scrapped their 12 per cent tax on sanitary items.
With the Greens’ bill now passed in the Senate, it shows momentum of Australia finally following in the footsteps of fellow forward thinking countries. Better yet, it shows we are moving towards a fairer and equal political system (and society – still looking at you gender wage gap).
Now is the time to speak up in support of axing the tax and persuade our politicans to pass the bill in the House of Representatives.
Sign online petitions, educate yourself and others, and help encourage our politicians to stop taxing our periods. Period.
Please find some online petitions linked below: