Finally Female Menstrual Products are GST Free

In October 2018, tireless campaigners finally won the battle to remove the tax on women’s sanitary products. The GST has been in place since 1999, and the war on getting this tax cut has been going since day 1! The inclusion of sanitary products under the GST has annoyed many in our community and here is why – GST is not charged on essential items.

This includes products such as contact lenses, nicotine patches and viagra but menstrual pads, tampons, menstrual cups and maternity pads all attracted GST.  The ‘menstrual avengers’ were campaigning way back in 2000 when John Howard was in power (yes, that is how long this has been going on!): 

Quick to join the campaign was Rochelle Courtney from Share the Dignityan Australian Charity bringing dignity to homeless, at-risk and those experiencing domestic violence through the distribution of sanitary items and funding of funerals.

Whilst Share the Dignity was opposed to the unfair nature and inequality of the tax they also brought to light the real-life impact this tax was having on homeless women. Women who were having to decide between buying sanitary products and buying food for their children.

This is not a choice that any woman should be forced to make and Rochelle and her team campaigned tirelessly to bring awareness and ultimately change.  

Worse yet for those in dire situations sometimes the only choice seems to be to get your hands on what you need using any means possible. In 2015 a woman was fined $500 for stealing tampons valued at $6.75 that she literally couldn’t afford to purchase {reference: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/oct/15/aboriginal-woman-in-wa-fined-500-for-stealing-675-box-of-tampons}  

From January 1, 2019 there is no longer GST being charged on women’s sanitary products. 

So, why were they taxed in the first place? The short answer seems to be that there were more men sitting at the table than women when it was decided and it was yet another example of women being penalised for being women. 

Fortunately, that tide is turning which means women like Revenue Minister Kelly O’Dwyer are now playing a larger role in federal politics. O’Dwyer greeted the news of the abolition of the Tampon Tax by saying “today is a great day for millions of Australian women across the country”. 

Campaigners have seen this as yet another inequality that leaves women coming out second best in the financial arena once again (hello gender pay gap meet your friend the tampon tax). 

The abolishment of this tax is a major win for women but also for our community, one more small step in a larger journey. However, it’s not the end of the battle and given it has taken 18 years to remove this tax it’s not likely to be resolved anytime soon. GST is still charged on some breastfeeding aids such as breast pumps and nipple shields. Treasurer Scott Morrison has said “I think it’s an anomaly that has been built into the system for a long time and the states have decided to hold onto the money instead of getting rid of it,”  

Chief executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association Alison Verhoeven believes it is just another double standard for women, saying “It is unacceptable that lactation aids are subject to GST while infant formula is not, we should be doing everything we can to encourage and support breastfeeding, which is important for a healthy start in life.” The fight to remove GST on these products has been going since at least 2008 when the government rejected calls to remove the GST.   

Let’s hope we won’t be waiting another 10 years to see the GST removed from breastfeeding aids as well.  

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