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tampon tax: a #BloodyOutrage

Do you think tampons and pads are luxury items? Well, in Australia, women pay a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on these items because they are defined as a luxury. Shall I use that in a sentence? ‘Gee whiz, it feels mighty luxurious when I am sitting in a public place and I’m not bleeding on the seat.’

So luxurious.

Condoms, personal lubricant, incontinence pads, folate supplements, and sunscreen are all GST free. How is it not blatant sexism, when an item necessary in the lives of most women is taxed, but lube isn’t? And when the alternative is using old rags, tampons are not a luxury. (For the record, menstrual cups, a reusable alternative to pads and tampons, is also taxed with the GST).

The argument back in 2000, when the GST came in, was that health items that prevented illness, such as condoms and quit-smoking products were GST exempt. The logic was that tampons didn’t prevent illness and were therefore a luxury item. How about we all stop wearing sanitary products and then see how this argument stands up.

So luxurious!

At the time, Howard explained it away by avoiding the topic: ‘I mean, of course if you look at tampons in isolation – just as you look at something else in isolation – you can mount an argument to take the tax off it… But we’ve had that argument and if you start doing that, you will have no GST in the end, and the whole system will begin to unravel.’ In my mind this paraphrases to: If you look at sexism on it’s own, sure it looks bad. But if you take it out the whole system will begin to unravel.

The conversation started up again in 2009. We had a new Labor Government. These were the peeps on our side back in 2000 who fought against the tampon tax. Coles supermarkets announced that they would reduce the cost of tampons by 10% because ‘you shouldn’t be taxed for being a woman’. Did the Labor Government end the tax? Alas, ladies are still paying an extra 10% for the luxury of not bleeding everywhere.

So luxurious!!

The issue has come back to the fore since Perth student Sophie Liley started a petition.

‘Putting a tax on products women need as a direct consequence of their biology is fundamentally sexist,’ says Liley, and I happen to agree with her. The petition asksPrime Minister Gillard and Opposition Leader Abbot and their leading ministers to end the tax on tampons and other sanitary items.

This tax is sexist, no way around it. Women NEED to use sanitary items each month if they are going to continue to be functional members of society. Pads and tampons are an integral part of being a healthy woman.

There is an election coming up and as Liley says in her petition, ‘pundits are saying that women aged 18-45 will determine the election in September’. This is discrimination. Let’s make this an election issue. Make some noise. Tweet at our Prime Minister and Opposition leader (@JuliaGillard and @TonyAbbottMHR), use the hashtag #BloodyOutrage. Share the petition on Facebook and Twitter. Talk about it.

This tax says that managing menstruation is a luxury. It’s not. It’s a right. Fight for it.

Help axe the tampon tax, Lipsters. Sign the petition here.

25 thoughts on “tampon tax: a #BloodyOutrage

  1. Seriously!

    I remember at the time there was a woman in the supermarket complaining how that would make her packet of pads about $4 each and she went through 3 packets every time.

    Buy home brand morons!

    It’s all the same thing, about a third of the price, does what it’s supposed to and I have used no other brand since. Some people are just idiots. I don’t give a fat rats whether there’s a GST or not. There is on most things I buy, so what, deal with it and buy freakin home brand!

    • Lady Jewels Diva – I kind of get the gist of your comment, but I have to question why you feel the need to be so aggressive in your language.

      I don’t think it makes people ‘morons’ or ‘idiots’ to want to be able to save money on necessary items like tampons and pads. You might be comfortable with homebrand items, but the fact is that it isn’t fair that women are priced out of buying the brands that they want because tampons are classified as ‘luxury items’.

      If nothing else, then the principal of the matter is what irks me – it is blatantly unfair to charge tax on items that are essential to women’s day to day lives, and it demonstrates an attitude towards periods as inconveniences and annoyances rather than a natural and unavoidable part of our lives, which I find offensive.

      • If using the word moron or idiot makes a comment aggressive then there is clearly an issue with what you feel as I was not being aggressive!

        As for home brands, they used to be big name brands in cheap packaging so people really have no excuse, these days, stores like Coles make their own.

        In the last few years with financial issues that we’ve ALL gone through, if you’re going to still put name brands ahead of saving where you can then you ARE an idiot.

        Pads and tampons all do the same thing. There is no difference between home and name brands. We are constantly told to buy home brands to save money so there is no excuse, considering most brands are still quite cheap anyway.

      • Is Lady Jewels Diva actually a dude? Pads and Tampons DO NOT do exactly the same thing. Sometimes you need one OR the other.

        Agree with this petition 100%. Why should I be taxed for a physical feature of my gender, which I cannot change, that allows us to perpetuate the human race?

        Any man who says other wise can cut his urethra and deal with a 10% tax on penis band-aids.

    • Hi Lady Jewels Diva,
      Thank you for commenting. I certainly agree with you that buying home brand tampons and pads is a good option if you are finding the cost of brand name products to be prohibitive. However, if people do have brand loyalty, or find that particular products help them feel more comfortable, I don’t think it is fair to call them morons. Managing menstruation is a personal thing and every woman is different.

      I’m glad you have a found an option that helps you feel comfortable and happy.
      Sara 🙂

      • And regarding the GST, I think that is still applied to home brand products. So you are still being taxed, even though you are making more frugal choices.

      • Make them feel more comfortable!!!!

        Who are you kidding!

        A tampon is a tampon is a tampon. All made the same way of the same products, get real. We’re all living under the poverty line and are constantly told to buy generic.

        It’s time to get real.

        • No they aren’t made the same way. Certain brands have slightly different shapes and if you’re someone who can feel the difference then its like the princess and the pea, you can just feel it.

  2. Whether or not they should be GST-free is open to debate. However it is not correct to say they are taxed because they are considered “luxuries”. There is no basis for this statement. The law simply excludes them from GST-free status. The schedule which lists which supplies are regarded as GST-free medical supplies, specifically mentions incontinence pads, but excludes baby nappies, sanitary pads and tampons. There is no mention of “luxury items”. This is a furphy, and is an outdated concept probably left over from the wholesale Sales Tax legislation which was abolished when GST was introduced on 1 July 2000.
    The Sales Tax law did indeed tax some goods described as “luxury goods” at a higher rate, however tampons and sanitary napkins were not included. They were only taxed at the general rate.
    With the introduction of GST, these products generally became cheaper than they were under the previous tax system.
    I think this confusion involving the word ‘luxury’ may stem from an old advertising campaign from a particular product, but im not really sure.
    I do know for sure that there is no concept in our GST legislation which regards sanitary products as luxury items. The only use of the term “luxury” is in the Luxury Car Tax.
    Sanitary products are simply not classed as medical supplies. That’s all there is to it.
    Regards, David Hall

    • David, it wasn’t just pads and tampons that became cheaper, it was a tonne of stuff that dropped in price. Even now, pads and tampons aren’t expensive so way back when people complained it was for nothing because all the naysayers of the GST wanted to scare people!

  3. You take offence at the suggestion that tampons are luxury items and then turn up your nose at Home Brand. Does that not mean that you want the luxurious option but don’t want it to be considered as such, so as to avoid paying the tax?

    It’s in the government’s best interest for the community to use condoms and sunscreen so they make them as accessible as possible by cutting the tax. This is the same manipulation as cigarette and alcohol tax being as high as it is. Whether or not you wear luxury tampons is of no interest to the government so they don’t modify taxes to manipulate their use.

    This isn’t an imbalance; men don’t buy tampons so they don’t subsidise the tax on them. It’s not a sexist tax, it’s the same as any other. That men don’t use tampons is not our fault and we shouldn’t be expected to foot the bill for something that we don’t use. This is what you are asking for if you want to remove the tax as it would have to be made up somewhere and men would be making up for half of that cost.

    If we evened out things across the board, women would owe men money, not the other way around. As Howard said, isolating tampon tax is not an accurate representation within the bigger picture.

    • All sanitary products, including pads, tampons and menstrual cups, irrespective of their brand or so-called “luxury rating”, attract a 10% GST. Yes, even the Home Brand ones. Menstruating women have no choice but to use these products, so wouldn’t you agree that it should be in the Government’s “best interest”, as you say, to make these products “accessible” and tax free? (The same argument can be made for toilet paper. Should toilet paper be exempt from the GST? Yes, and for the same reason – we can’t help our biology, and these products are a necessity.)

      And just so you know, there is nothing “luxurious” about having to use any of the above sanitary products, not even the more expensive ones. I’m a menstruating woman so you can take my word for it.

      • Well I’m a menstruating women too and I don’t give a fat rats about it being in my “best interest” and tax free, considering home brand is $3 for 14 I couldn’t give a fat rats about a GST. We pay GST on most things anyway.

  4. My objection is to the notion that the tax is sexist because the product is required only by women. If you just focused on whether or not the product was a necessity, I would be happy to side with you. Of course, to avoid being sexist you would need to add things other than just those that are pertinent to women to your list of proposed changes to the GST laws. Toilet paper is necessary and is taxed so the luxury and necessity part of the debate seems irrelevant if you’re focusing only on tampons.

    You don’t hear men complaining that their sexist government is unfairly charging them tax on their shaving cream, a necessary product for men hoping to be employed in a decent job. We need to shave, we buy shaving cream and we get on with it. We don’t expect it to be tax free just because women don’t use it.

    Is the issue here whether or not necessary items should be covered under the GST or that women shouldn’t pay tax on tampons because men don’t have to?

    Thankfully women’s rights have advanced to the degree that something like this can even be considered for a moment to be sexist.

    • I think you’re confusing my response to your comment with the author’s opinion. I never used the word “sexist”; I merely stated that sanitary products are a biological necessity, and as such should not be taxed.

      Show me a petition to axe the TP tax and I will gladly sign it.

      • Josephine, I wasn’t responding to you directly which is why I didn’t post as a reply to your post. I was clarifying my position because I saw your post and realised that I had started my initial post in response to something that wasn’t really what my concern with this issue was. You latched onto this without addressing my main concern.

        I am asking the original author to clarify as well as anyone else reading this article. My question to anyone who is in favour of the change that the author proposes is the following:

        “Is the issue here whether or not necessary items should be covered under the GST or that women shouldn’t pay tax on tampons because men don’t have to?”

        • My bad. I replied from the back end of the site and assumed your comment was in response to mine 🙂

          I do understand the point you’re making so in response to that, in my opinion, it’s the former.

  5. Thanks for your feedback guys. At the end of the day, there is really no item that compares to pads and tampons for men. so there is nothing I can point to directly that shows a gender discrepancy and therefore, sexism. (I disagree with a shaving cream comparison – imagine catching the bus without using one versus the other, it’s totally different.)

    However, I do think sanitary items are absolutely necessary for the health of women. We also need these items in order to participate in society for approximately one quarter of our reproductive lives.

    I think the tax should be removed because these products – pads, tampons and menstrual cups – are an absolute necessity for the health and lives of women

    • An absolute necessity for white women in the white world?

      What happened to the days of rolling up rags to use instead? What do women in third world countries use? They clearly have found something else to use if they use anything at all.

      So exactly WHO are these a necessity for unless it’s us poor white women who can’t stand being in a bloody mess every three weeks!

      They have no reason to be tax free and women clearly need to head for the home brands IF it’s a money issue. If it’s a BRAND issue then buying an expensive version and then complaining about the price is pathetic when there are many cheaper alternatives.

      The GST has been in what, 15 years or so? If you haven’t figured out how to buy cheaper by now then there is a serious issue going on.

      • Actually Lady Jewels Diva in many parts of the world women and young girls are shamed into not leaving the house while mensurating because they have no reliable way to manage the situation. This results in poor school attendance and diminished participation in their society. In other parts of the world tampons are banned due to fear that their use will rob a man of the bloody proof that his new wife was a virgin on their wedding night. Neither of these situations are ok. The cultural differences that dictate tampon usage around the world are far from as simple as “poor white women who can’t stand being in a bloody mess every three weeks”. Even putting aside your claim that women in developing countries “make do” without tampons (which I hope you agree the above situations suggest that far from the case) in our society women need to be able to go to work, do the grocery shopping, pick up their kids from school, go to school or uni themselves, just generally be out in public all month round. Therefore, tampons are necessary and suggesting we could always go back to the old ways of managing mesuration is tantamount to telling us to all get back in the kitchen.

        As for home brands, personal hygiene is a very personal thing if you have a brand you like, whether is the particular size or shape (yes they do vary actually) or the different coatings that some of the brands have or even the special applicator types then thats your choice. It does actauuly matter to some women. And being told a tax that is insulting in principle should just be ignored because you personally are fine with cheap tampons misses the point entirely. You are just showing how incredibly selfish you are by repeating over and over how fine you are with the cheap tampns you buy.

  6. Lady Jewels Diva, I do hope that you’re not suggesting that unsanitized rags are appropriate and safe to use? Every person should have access to health care. The brand is not the issue here. The money is not the issue for me. In fact, this is not even what we’re talking about. We’re are talking about Australia, here and now.

    The issue, is that menstruating women are placed in an impossible position. Wear comfortable and SAFE pads/tampons or risk infection and illness. Is that really a choice?


    It is therefore outrageous that feminine hygiene products are still taxed and extra 10% under the GST.

    Why should women be taxed for being women? Men should not be taxed for being men.

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