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Padding out the GST

By The Redhead - posted Monday, 11 October 2010


I’m not usually one to play the gender card. Today I do.

Now that we have a female Prime Minister can we PLEASE have the GST removed from feminine hygiene products?

While the broad-based nature of the GST has been, I think, quite a good thing for the nation and for the economy I still struggle to understand the reasoning behind applying the tax to tampons and sanitary pads.

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When the GST was first being designed and refined there was great discussion across Australia with interest groups of every kind wanting this, that and the other made exempt. Some were a fair call but others were clearly pushing the commercial self-interest barrow. By and large I think it’s been applied very wisely, very fairly and very well. Except for tampons.

An average Aussie woman will require these products for about one week every month of her adult reproductive life which lasts for about 40 years. It’s more than blood flow - it’s a cash flow! According to recent research by the Australian Sex Party for the 2010 federal election campaign, that industry is worth about $14 million is GST revenue each year to the government. Hardly a figure any government would want to give up.

Unfortunately the federal parliament decided in 2000 that tampons and pads are luxury items. Female coalition MPs were not happy and tried unsuccessfully to dissuade both the then Prime Minister John Howard and Health Minister Michael Wooldridge. Their voices were joined by senior coalition MPs across the nation, and female MPs generally, not to mention health groups, women’s health organisations, women across the nation and even the Australian Medical Association.

At the time Health Minister Michael Wooldridge caused quite a stir by likening tampons to shaving cream, therefore a bit of a luxury. Dr Wooldridge - you can choose to shave or not? Right? This raised the ire of the female collective but neither he nor Mr Howard were moved.

In an ABC Radio interview on January 25, 2000 Mr Howard said this:

If you take the GST off, say, tampons, within a few days, I promise you, there will be a group of people mounting quite a respective argument in isolation to take it off children's clothing. Everybody needs clothing. And that argument can be mounted. I mean, our original idea was that you had it on virtually everything.

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Yes, everybody needs clothing but while I can buy second-hand clothing, or even make some things myself, I defy Mr Howard or anyone to suggest I could apply the same reasoning to tampons. Put simply tampons and pads are health items. Without them there would be biological material management issues. Interestingly incontinence products are GST exempt for exactly this reason, so why not tampons?

Is it because blokes can be incontinent too? Surely the implementers of the GST were not THAT shallow!

Mr Howard again:

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About the Author

While making a main career in the media, The RedHead draws on a bit of life experience from the slightly less glamorous, but extremely fulfilling years mustering cattle and running a bottle shop. All have honed her skills for observing human nature and her sense of humour. She has a teenage son and a husband, and enjoys the satisfaction of the toilet seat always being down. Love Is never having to ask!

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