Australian women are set to save at the checkout with a government commitment to scrap a 10 per cent goods and services tax on tampons and sanitary products – known to many as the ‘tampon tax’.
Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison vowed to remove the GST on tampons on Saturday, saying that it should have never been applied in the first place.
However, the federal government cannot scrap the tax on sanitary products without the unanimous support of state and territory governments which receive $30 million a year in GST revenue for the classified “non-essential item”.
“It is a practical issue. There’s no great gender conspiracy. It’s just a tax anomaly that can be fixed if all the states agree,” Mr Morrison posted on Twitter before the states and territories meeting on August 21.
“Sure, there are much bigger issues – the drought, electricity prices, jobs – just to name a few. But that doesn’t mean we can’t deal with this as well,” he said.
The ABC on Saturday reported that the state and territory governments of NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, Northern Territory and the ACT had all expressed support for the removal of GST on the products, while Fairfax Media reported that Victoria was also behind the change.
The GST on tampons and sanitary products has caused outrage since it was first introduced in 2001, with activists describing it as sexist and unfair, considering items such as condoms, nicotine patches and sexual enhancement drug Viagra are considered “essential” and exempt from the tax.
Editor of Money magazine Effie Zahos estimates Australian women spend $300 million a year on sanitary items, and called the the “tampon tax” an unfair cost for women, imposed on them for “just for being a woman”.
“When you consider women who are homeless or living in poverty, the GST makes an already expensive but essential item even more so.
“It is time to do what most fair-minded Australians know is the right thing to do,” Ms Zahos said.
Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer said the treasurer’s commitment was a “great day for millions of Australian women across the country” at a press conference on Saturday.
“It’s something we have been fighting to do for some time, so we call on the state and territory governments to scrap the tax.
“We need their unanimous support to do it,” Ms O’ Dwyer said.
The opposition slammed Mr Morrison’s commitment as a “backflip”, after the Treasurer had previously called Labor’s announcement to remove the tampon tax a “cynical exercise”.
Labor announced in April that if elected to government, the tax would be removed. Under the party’s proposal, the loss of revenue to the states from the GST would be offset by applying the GST to 12 natural therapies such as herbalism and naturopathy.
A Greens bill to scrap the tax passed the Senate in June this year, but it was not expected to pass the lower house where the Coalition had the majority.