After almost 18 years in the making, we had a huge win this week when the bill to scrap the tax on menstrual items passed the Senate!
By Senator Janet Rice
We had a huge win in the Senate this week when our bill to axe the tampon tax passed.
For over 17 years, people around Australia have been protesting about the GST on menstrual products because it’s a sexist and unfair tax, and on Monday our voices were finally heard.
Bright and early that morning, I was on the front lawns of our nation’s Parliament with our supporters and members of Share the Dignity, who have been campaigning to scrap the tax since it was introduced.
Share the Dignity is a charity that works to distribute sanitary items to women who are homeless, at-risk or experiencing domestic violence. I’m humbled to have stood beside their founder Rochelle Courtney and their many supporters this week in the count down to the Senate vote.
Axeing the tax
On Monday morning, the Greens joined forces with Share the Dignity to bring our petitions, with over 125,000 combined signatures, to the Parliament.
This huge community support for axing the tax finally tipped the scales in our favour, and we saw the bill to remove the tax pass the Senate.
The following is an excerpt of my speech in parliament about what it would mean to end this discriminatory tax:
Sanitary products are defined in this bill as tampons, pads, liners, cups, sponges and other products used in connection with menstruation. Since the goods and services tax came into operation in the year 2000, people who menstruate have been paying tax on these products. That’s 18 years of products essential to millions of Australians being 10 per cent more expensive than they should be; products essential to maintain health and hygiene while they menstruate.
It is, quite frankly, ridiculous that while items like sunscreen, folic acid, toothpaste, lubricant, condoms, and even Viagra are exempt from GST, sanitary products are not. Sanitary products are just as important to the maintenance of personal and public health as these exempt items.
If cis men required sanitary products because they bled every month do you think there’d be GST added to them? Absolutely not. It is unfathomable.
This is a sexist and unfair tax on the biology of people who menstruate and it never should have existed in the first place.
And from the very beginning there has been strong opposition from the public about the decision to apply GST to sanitary products.
The first petition to this parliament opposing the GST on sanitary items was tabled here in this place on 15 February 2000, with 10,355 signatures calling on the government to make tampons and sanitary pads GST-free. Today I share with the Parliament the most recent petition: over 127,000 signatures collected by the Greens and Share the Dignity.
It is clear: Australians have had enough. They want this unfair and sexist tax on sanitary products gone, once and for all.
For state, territory and federal budgets this tax is a drop in the ocean. But for some people, the impacts of the GST on sanitary products mean going without these essential health products.
This tax disproportionately affects low income women and transgender people, many of whom have insecure work and housing. It’s easy for some to dismiss this as a non-issue. But there are people who are sometimes faced with having to make a choice between buying tampons or buying food. The fact that they’re charged more for an essential sanitary product because of the GST is simply unacceptable.
The Greens urge the parliament to remove this discrimination. We could axe this unfair tax this week, if the government supported this bill.
I have introduced this bill on behalf of every person who has signed a petition, attended a protest, written to their MP, or felt the financial burden of this unfair tax. This reform is long overdue.
I want to look back and remember that in 2018, Parliament did the right thing and finally axed the bloody tampon tax.
Because as anyone who menstruates knows, menstruating is not a luxury.
Keeping up the fight
This week we had a great win, but the fight isn’t over. Before we can say goodbye to the tampon tax for good, the bill needs to pass through the House of Representatives.
The Bill passing the Senate has sent a strong message to Malcolm Turnbull. Now it’s up to him to show some leadership and finally get this done.
Malcolm hasn’t heard the last of us yet!
With the bill passing, I also want to pay tribute to my Greens colleagues who supported the bill and our former parliamentarians who’ve worked for this reform for years. In particular, I'd like to acknowledge Larissa Waters, who attempted to remove this tax last year and campaigned strongly for this change, and by doing so laid the vital groundwork that made it possible for us to get the bill passed this week.
Janet Rice is a Greens Senator and Party spokesperson for Women.