News National Forget the tampon tax: Sanitary products should be free

Forget the tampon tax: Sanitary products should be free

The average woman spends about four decades menstruating and buying hygiene products. Photo: Getty
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Every four weeks or so, there’s that regular scrabble every woman knows about. Check the top bathroom drawer – nothing. Bottom one? Rifle through lipsticks and old mascara tubes, the nail polish bought on impulse at duty free. Bingo. A box of tampons.

Doing that for the millionth time the day GST was removed on tampons made me wonder how many such boxes I’ve reached for in my life, and what they’ve cost.

The horror in my daughter’s voice was palpable when she was younger and we were having the tampon ‘How to use’ talk: “Wait? You mean you still get your period?”

Yes, darling. I’m not quite out of the woods yet. For 39 years I’ve been buying tampons every month.

It’s a long time, and a lot of cash. So at this late stage in the game, I’m proposing sanitary products should be free, courtesy of the government.

By a rough reckoning, I’ve spent about $10 a month for nearly four decades, minus the pregnancy bits, which adds up to about $4320.

It’s not a fortune, but not chicken feed either, given it was used on a product literally destined to be thrown away after a couple of hours.

Which is why Wednesday’s GST removal is more than satisfying and long overdue.

It’s an opportunity for the government to take things even further to redress the acknowledged general financial imbalance between men and women.

The reason ‘feminine hygiene’ products exist is menstruation. Menstruation is the reason people exist. The person next to you on the train is there because their mother’s body had that hidden power to make life.

Without menstruation, there’s nobody to run the country, fire the economy, create masterpieces, invent things, cure cancer. Without it, you can have all the honeymoon sex you like, and the family name will still die out.

While the tax iron is hot, it’s the perfect time for the government to pay back one half of the population for their decades of dedication – fiscal, emotional, physical – to ensuring the country stays populated and fair.

Sanitary products
The entire range of sanitary products should be free, thanks to the government. Photo: Getty

Here’s my rough working plan, with a couple of options.

Plan A: When every woman reaches menopause, they cash in their chips. A letter from their doctor saying they have graduated from periods with distinction is sent to the government.

A standardised calculation is done to work out how much that woman has spent on sanitary products over her lifetime. Maybe with a loading of 10 per cent for their dedication to the country’s cause. Then the money is paid into their superannuation.

In one neat move, women boost their super balance, which often lags behind that of men for various menstruation-related reasons, and are formally acknowledged for their importance.

Plan B: The government already provides free drinking fountains, public toilets and shower blocks, medical care, education. Tampons should be added to the list – they are a necessity, not a luxury.

Public telephone boxes could be turned into tampon vending machines. Police cars could carry a stash. The government could provide a regular stockpile of tampons and pads to designated shops in every suburb.

And in each case, the tampons are completely free of charge. No questions asked. Homeless and disadvantaged women wouldn’t have to lose dignity or miss out on other essentials when it’s their time of the month.

Maybe the government could even buy a tampon business, or launch one, so they’re providing jobs while doing a radical good deed.

Economists will say the model is flawed, that it would be open to rorting, that it would mean lifting taxes which would hurt women anyway.

All of that is true. But if men were the ones menstruating, I’d bet – given the funding and community sensitivities which are, rightfully, given to the black dog of male depression and suicidal farmers – more time and money would go into finding a solution.

Despite the GST removal, women alone have to buy something which benefits everyone. It’s time for tampons to be less of a pain.

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