How Australia Ended 18 Years Of Tampon Tax
By Poppy Calder
If you’ve ever wandered into a store to buy tampons and pads, only to realise you don’t have enough money for them, you're not alone. Here’s what Australia did to help evade that.
In 2000, a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) was added to the cost of 16 feminine hygiene products in Australia, including tampons, pads and liners. These products were labelled "non-essential items," while other health-related products like condoms, sunscreen, oral barriers and nicotine patches were exempt from the tax. The GST laws were written in 1999 by the Howard government, during John Howard's second ministry (when only 2 out of the 20 cabinet members were women, and were effective from July 1, 2000. (Now To Love, 2018.)
In 2015, after campaigning was at an all-time high, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey said in an episode of Australian television series Q&A, he would raise the issue with the states at the next meeting of the treasurers. The issue was raised in the Labor caucus meeting with shadow treasurer Chris Bowen telling other ministers of parliament he agreed with Mr Hockey. The idea was shut down by the government, labelled “too much to abolish” as it was considered too much money being secured by the tax.
“The tampon tax is a tax on women's biology that financially penalises women for simply existing. It’s sexist and opportunistic, and it’s shameful that successive governments have refused to abolish it. Men earn more than women but there is no tax on male personal products like condoms or lubricants. For too long governments, have been happy to let this sexist tax persist," Senator Larissa Waters said in a statement.It showed insight into the Australian government knowing what they were taxing, and wouldn’t do anything to change it at the time.
After an 18 year campaign, on June 18th 2018, Australia’s Senate passed a bill that would scrap the 10% tax from all feminine hygiene products, effective from the 1st January 2019. Getting this tax scrapped has decreased the price of feminine hygiene products, saving buyers $4,800 throughout their lifetime.
While Australia managed to remove the tax off of these “luxury” items, a tax on a natural bodily function should’ve never been introduced. How are a packet of 16 tampons, a packet of 8 pads, a menstrual cup or anything that is used whilst menstruating, considered non-essential, luxury items? A tax on women’s reproductive system’s shouldn’t exist at all, and a luxury item does not, and will never, consist of an essential item all women need, every month. "If it were men who required sanitary products in relation to a natural function of their bodies every month, it is unlikely that the GST would have been added." Janet Rice said, the very woman who proposed the bill to erase the tax. Janet is an Environmentalist and has been an activist for over 30 years, as well as advocating strongly for LQBTIA rights in Australia. She also handles some agricultural and rural affairs, and is "standing up for a caring society, a fair economy and a clean environment."
From 2000-2018, Australian women (and buyers of hygiene products) paid $30 million in tax, each year. $30 million in tax, so we wouldn’t have to be ashamed of having a stain on our clothes. $30 million that could’ve been spent elsewhere. Over the eighteen years this tax was in place, the Australian government collected $540 million courtesy of tampon tax. $540 million that didn’t need to be spent on buying ESSENTIAL items. (Axe Tampon Tax)
Australian girls used to worry about not having a pad or tampon, or bleeding through the only school uniform they have. Now that pads and tampons have become cheaper, they no longer rely on their friends for tampons or needing to tell teachers they had their periods to have access to products. Despite being a first world country, Australia still suffers from period poverty.
During 2018, a packet of 16 Carefree Procomfort Tampons would've cost an Australian buyer approximately $5. While it doesn't seem like much of a difference, in 2019, a packet of 16 Carefree Procomfort Tampons now costs approximately $4.50. Every woman is different with their income and period and will go through a different amount of product, producing a contrasting expense paid during a period. An average woman uses 20 tampons per period, meaning that to survive one period, an average woman would spend around $10 on tampons alone, with the tax.
Adding to that, if the woman doesn’t feel comfortable with risking TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) overnight, she would have to go and buy a packet of nighttime pads. During 2018, a packet of 8 Poise Hourglass All Night Pads would cost an Australian buyer an approximate $6.60. Now, without the tax, the product costs $6. A packet of 14 Libra Invisible Regular Pads would’ve cost nearly $6. Now, they only cost $5.35. Again, it doesn’t sound like buyers are actually saving money, but it all adds up over time. We are now saving $120 or more a year. Per period, we now save between $1-10, dependent on the products you buy and use.*
So, how does this affect Australian women’s lives? Other than saving money, impoverished women no longer have to choose between buying lunch or buying a packet of period items. The cheapest price on a packet of tampons from
Woolworths is a packet of Woolworths Select Tampons Regular 20 pack, valued at $2.25*. It is also now cheaper to donate to charities such as Share The Dignity, a charity that operates in Australia, “bringing dignity to homeless, at-risk and those experiencing domestic violence through the distribution of sanitary items.”
Our feminine hygiene essentials are now cheaper. We no longer sit in shame for a week because we can’t afford a pack of tampons. We are free to do whatever we’d like now because we can afford our sanitary products. Access to sanitary items is a right, not a privilege. Whilst Australia abolished this tax, we still need all other first world countries to abolish their tampon tax. Buying good quality tampons and pads shouldn’t ever be a difficult decision. It took a lot of campaigning to get where we are, but we are here now.
Tampons aren't a luxury, they're a bloody necessity.
*All products mentioned are available at Woolworths Australia and have the Woolworths pricing, as at the 25th Jan 2019.