It looks like Australia's treasurer is listening to Subeta Vimalarajah. Earlier this month, the Sydney University student started an online petition underscoring a fundamental inequity in the country’s sales tax code that offers tax-free purchases for healthful products like sunscreen, condoms and nicotine patches, but not for the tampons and hygienic pads women use every month.
“The government doesn't consider the tampons and pads we're forced to buy every few weeks ‘necessary,’” Vimalarajah wrote in her “Stop Taxing My Period!” petition. "People who get periods don't buy pads and tampons for pleasure, so why are we forced to fork out an extra 10% every 2, 3, 4 weeks?”
Over the past three weeks the petition garnered more than 93,000 online signatures. “I bleed and I vote,” said one of the signatories.
The petition comes ahead of an annual review of Australia’s so-called Goods and Services tax, or GST, implemented in 2000 to replace a hodgepodge of federal and state taxes. Essentially an across-the-board 10 percent sales tax, the law exempts products considered important for health, including over-the-counter products deemed good for health.
Vimalarajah confronted Australia’s Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey on Monday during a Q&A segment on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), asking if he thought tampons were important for health and whether he thought the 10 percent tax should be scrapped.
"Do I think sanitary products are essential? I think so, I think so," he replied. "It probably should, yes, the answer's yes"
But Hockey can only raise the issue to state treasurers, which he said he would do at their next meeting in July. Any change to the GST requires support by state and territorial government, but the impact of including tampons and pads to the list of expended products would be minimal. According to data obtained by ABC from Deloitte Access Economics, the cost of cutting the sales tax would be $30 million a year.
Australia’s then-Prime Minister John Howard opposed calls to exempt tampons and pads when the GST was introduced in 2000. He argued that it would open the way to include other products, like children’s clothing. The GST also exempts basic foodstuffs and medical products.