In 1984, a young Peter Garrett spoke to a group of even younger graduates at my university. That was when I learned about the luxury tax of tampons. Visions of diamond encrusted whoosiwhatsits danced alongside nightmares of what the non-luxurious sanitary solution might be like. It was a rude awakening for young women still getting to grips with having to use the damned things for the next 30 years of our lives.
Then in 2000, the price of sanitary items was reduced, just a little, when the luxury tax was replaced by the GST. Forgive the Sisterhood for failing to cheer when the Howard Government compared sanitary products to shaving cream. Apparently men can choose not to shave; very few women can choose to never menstruate.
Tampons, pads and the paraphernalia that goes with this non-elective bodily function can’t be classified as a drug, or as a product designed to prevent disease. They fall into the same GST classification as toilet paper, so the GST is applied.
I hate to wave the ‘sexist’ card, but this is a tax which is applicable only to women. Therefore, it is sexist. Just think of those ads – the ones with the girls in the white clothes, frolicking in the waves with their white horses. Do you see any men subjected to the same insanity? There is simply nothing that compares.
It’s not alone though: women pay more for a range of products and services, and we just seem to accept it. Hair Services, Skin Care, Underwear, Razors, Fragrances. That’s not about a tax being applied where none should exist; it’s about gender discrimination, plain and simple.
On this Budget Day, spare a thought for women, and particularly single women without children. In this Age of Middle Class Entitlement, the single, childless woman is the one who is overlooked. Her rent costs the same, her car payments, all the big ticket items cost the same as a couple would pay, but there’s just the one income and a weight of expectation.
I’m not suggesting we legislate to reduce the price of lip gloss and nail polish, but can we at least agree that tampons are not a luxury, and imposing a GST on feminine hygiene products is a gender-based tax that discriminates against women?
Perhaps if we start our campaign now, we can get convince the Treasurer to zero-rate these products before the next Budget comes around.