23 October 2016
Sanitary napkins aren't exempt from the GST in Australia. Photo: Internet
Sanitary napkins aren't exempt from the GST in Australia. Photo: Internet

Australia to review tampon tax

Condoms and nicotine patches escape Australia’s 10 percent goods and services tax (GST).

But you’ve got to pay the GST if you want to buy tampons or sanitary napkins.

Earlier this month, an online petition asking the government to stop taxing a “bodily function” attracted about 90,000 signatures, BBC News reported.

Now, the government appears divided at the top about the issue.

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey said he will lobby state and territory governments to exempt these sanitary products.


However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott downplayed Hockey’s pledge.

Abbott said he understood why many people wanted to see an end to the tax, but that it was “certainly not something that this government has a plan to do”.

He said it was up to the states to decide.

This month, ahead of a national tax review, Sydney university student Subeta Vimalarajah started an online petition calling for an end to the tax on a “bodily function”.

The petition questions the validity of taxing something most women are forced to buy every few weeks but which the government does not consider “necessary” enough to be GST-free.

“On the other hand, condoms, lubricants, sunscreen and nicotine patches are all tax-free because they are classed as important health goods,” the petition said.

“But isn’t the reproductive health and hygiene of 10 million Australians important too?” 

Vimalarajah has estimated the government raises A$25 million (US$20 million) a year from the tax on sanitary products.

“The reason this has not been addressed already and why sanitary products were originally not exempt is either because politicians are too awkward to confront the reality of periods or they just want us to literally pay for them,” she wrote on her blog.

“Either way, it’s sexist.”

During a post-budget discussion on ABC TV Monday night, Vimalarajah asked Hockey if he thought sanitary products were an essential health product for half the population.

“Do I think sanitary products are essential? I think so, I think so,” he replied, and said the tax “probably should” be taken off.

Hockey said he would raise the issue with state treasurers at their next meeting in July.

Any changes to how the GST is applied and how the revenue it raises is distributed must be supported by state and territory governments.

The tax was introduced by John Howard’s conservative government in 2000, replacing various federal and state taxes.

Most basic food items were exempted, along with some education courses and medical products.

But Howard dismissed calls for an exemption for tampons on the grounds that it would lead to too many other exemptions.

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