Less than 24 hours after Treasurer Joe Hockey agreed the GST “probably should” be removed from tampons, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has moved to kill off any federal push for the idea.
Mr Hockey on Monday night vowed on the ABC’s Q&A program to consult with the states and territories about making womens’ sanitary goods GST-free, saying they were “essential products”.
However, Mr Abbott has distanced himself from the Treasurer’s remarks.
“I understand there’s long been a push to take the GST off goods, which are one way or another regarded as health products,” he said.
“It’s certainly not something that this government has a plan to do.”
Taking the GST off tampons and sanitary napkins would cost states about $30 million a year in GST funding, according to budget watchers Deloitte Access Economics.
But Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said her government would “of course” support moves to lift the GST.
“This is the first time you’ll hear me agree with Joe Hockey,” she said.
“I think it should be lifted.”
The debate over exempting pads and tampons from GST has been stirred afresh by an online petition that has been signed by more than 90,000 people since it was posted earlier this month.
— Regina Blyth (@AstronautReggie) May 25, 2015
University student Subeta Vimalarajah, who put the petition online, asked Mr Hockey directly on Q&A whether the GST charge on sanitary products should be removed.
“It probably should, yes, the answer’s yes,” Mr Hockey told the audience.
But on Tuesday Mr Abbott said he interpreted the Treasurer’s statement as saying it “was a matter for the states”.
“I know everyone is always hunting for semiotic interpretations and so on,” he said.
“The point I’m making is that we cannot change the GST without the states and territories.”
Mr Abbott’s conservative predecessor, John Howard, also fought off political campaigns and public petitions over the issue when the GST was introduced in 2000.
If this move made it to Parliament, it is likely to face no trouble passing the Senate, with both Labor and the Greens supporting GST-free pads and tampons.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten opened Question Time with the issue, asking the Prime Minister whether he would “support excluding women’s sanitary products from the GST in return for extending the GST to Netflix and downloads?”
Mr Abbott said he could “fully understand” why some people wanted the GST removed, but again shifted the onus to the states and territories.
“There’s a long history to this matter and perhaps if we had our time over again things would have been done differently, but we are in the situation that we are in,” he said.
Superannuation pledge did not ‘subscribe to never-ever’
Mr Abbott has also acted to hose down speculation triggered by the Treasurer on Monday night on changes to superannuation.
The Prime Minister had previously ruled out any changes to superannuation arrangements at any time in the future.
But Mr Hockey said he did not “subscribe to never-ever”.
On Tuesday, Mr Abbott reiterated his promise applied beyond this term of parliament.
“We have no plans to make changes in subsequent terms of Parliament should we get them,” the Prime Minister said.