Australian Senate Passes Bill to Pull Plug on Tampon Tax
The bill would recategorize tampons from non-essential "luxury" items to essential health products.
By Joanna Prisco
Australia’s Greens party has attempted to axe the tampon tax for the third time since it was introduced, according to BuzzFeed News.
Greens senator Janet Rice introduced a new bill that would effectively amend the goods and services tax (GST), changing the classification of tampons and other feminine hygiene products, currently listed as non-essential "luxury" items, to essential health products.
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"If cis men required sanitary products because they bled every month, do you think there'd be GST added to them? Absolutely not. It is unfathomable," Rice told the Senate. "This is a sexist and unfair tax on the biology of people who menstruate and it never should have existed in the first place."
Since 2000, sanitary products for menstruation have incurred a 10% GST. But activists have pointed out that other basic health products, such as sunscreen, toothpaste, lubricant, condoms, and Viagra, do not bear the same economic burden.
Our voices have finally been heard! The #Greens bill to axe the tampon tax passed through the senate today! 👏— Janet Rice (@janet_rice) June 18, 2018
The bill still needs to pass through House of Reps, it's now up to the PM to show leadership and finally axe the bloody tampon tax.#auspol@sharingdignity#axethetaxpic.twitter.com/ukieJ1ugtn
States and territories led by Labor governments — including Victoria, Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory — have supported axing the tax, noted BuzzFeed News. Meanwhile, Liberal-run territories, such as New South Wales, Tasmania, and South Australia, are opposed.
Opponents of the bill argue that removing the tax on feminine hygiene products would cost states and territories about $40 million per year, according to an earlier report by BuzzFeed News.
But Rice argued that the tax most impacts low-income members of the community.
"It’s easy for some to dismiss this as a non-issue," Rice said, "but there are people who are sometimes faced with having to make a choice between buying tampons or buying food. The fact that they’re charged more for an essential sanitary product because of the GST is simply unacceptable."
This is the third time in recent years that the Greens party has attempted to remove the tax.
While it is within health minister Greg Hunt’s powers to make a determination under Section 38.47 of the GST Act to remove the tampon tax, states and territories must agree unanimously with that determination.
Since the most recent vote was stalled, Labor party leaders have posited that if they win the next federal election, they will then remove the GST tax on tampons. But the party did not do so while in office from 2007-2013, BuzzFeed News noted in its report.
"Revenue loss is no longer a credible excuse for refusing to axe the sexist tampon tax," Greens senator Larissa Waters said at the time of the last vote in 2017, according to HuffPost.
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