Axe the tampon tax petition handover and protest on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra with Greens Senator Janet Rice and Lee Rhiannon. Picture: Kym Smith
Axe the tampon tax petition handover and protest on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra with Greens Senator Janet Rice and Lee Rhiannon. Picture: Kym Smith

Move to axe tampon tax is about bloody time

A FEW years ago, when we first thought the tampon tax would be repealed, I wrote about what it would be like if men had periods.

I decided they would call themselves "Blood Brothers" and would boast about how long, how often and how heavy. Men would give each other nick names such as "Big Red" and "Spots" when they were menstruating.

"Just go with the flow, man," they'd say to each other. "Don't let it cramp your style."

More sporting teams would be called "The Bloods", and would be proud to be sponsored by sanitary product companies.

Feminine hygiene products are still seen as a ‘luxury item’.
Feminine hygiene products are still seen as a ‘luxury item’.

I know one thing for sure: if men got periods, no politician would ever view sanitary products as a luxury item, attracting the GST and adding 10 per cent to the cost of every box.

Why is it that condoms, lubricant and Viagra are considered necessities and tax-exempt, but tampons are a luxury?

Even gender-neutral items such as incontinence pads, sunscreen and nicotine patches are seen as necessities.

And yet, because politics has long been dominated by men and women who don't stand up for other women, Australia is only now set to scrap its discriminatory tampon tax after 17 years.

This is why neither political party should get any kudos from axing this sexist tax.

Women have been campaigning to have this unfair tax scrapped for nearly two decades, only to be ignored by politicians on both sides.

In fact, politicians have done more than ignore us - they've belittled and shamed us for asking for this important symbolic and economic reform.

And now, with the Coalition languishing in the polls, some bright spark has decided to end this tax to "win the women's vote".

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP Image/Jeremy Piper
Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP Image/Jeremy Piper

Ladies, let's not give them the satisfaction. They don't deserve it.

It's all very well for Treasurer Scott Morrison to push this now that the government is struggling electorally. At the weekend, he described the tax as an "anomaly that has been built into the system for a long time and the states have decided to hold on to the money instead of getting rid of it".

Why is he only speaking out now? What have he and his colleagues been doing about it since 2000? Absolutely nothing.

The Coalition has dragged its heels for years, arguing that it's a matter for the states and territories. Rather than commit to working through this issue, MPs such as Morrison have been hiding behind this as a convenient excuse.

Morrison said this was "no great gender conspiracy", but the only reason the tax is still there is because it affects women rather than men.

Don't listen to him and Minister for Women Kelly O'Dwyer, who said her party had been "fighting to do (this) for some time".

They're not doing it because it's right. They're doing it because they're desperate and this is an easy way to get positive headlines. When they were riding high in the polls, they didn't care about it.

Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O'Dwyer. Picture: AAP Images/Penny Stephens
Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O'Dwyer. Picture: AAP Images/Penny Stephens

In 2015, former Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott was the one who dismissed the idea of repealing the tax as a "politically correct mistake". How offensive.

Removing the tax on tampons is not a form of political correctness, it's common sense, and you'd think someone with three daughters might know this.

Back in 2000, Queensland Nationals MP De-Anne Kelly even described it as a "Barbie doll issue to intimidate a largely conservative male Cabinet".

Yes, we want more women in parliament, but not ones who make idiotic, misogynist statements like this.

Labor's not much better. Although individual women such as Victorian MP Jenny Macklin spoke up against the tax, the issue wasn't addressed by either the Rudd or Gillard governments.

What a missed opportunity for Australia's first female prime minister. Still, Labor did commit some time ago to scrapping the tax if they won the next election.

Perhaps, we need to remove the taboo, along with the tax. Having a period is a normal part of most women's lives that comes around every month. So why is it something that women are encouraged not to discuss?

Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Jenny Macklin. Picture” AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Jenny Macklin. Picture” AAP Image/Lukas Coch

It's because men, in particular, would prefer it stayed secret women's business, that's why.

A Scottish MP called Danielle Rowley told the UK Speaker she was late to the House, saying: "Today, I'm on my period and it's cost me this week already £25 ($44)."

Her speech made international headlines because we're not used to this kind of honesty.

Women should not be taxed for being women. If men had periods, they'd understand how difficult and expensive menstruation can be. The last thing we want is to have sanitary items treated like luxuries.

The $30 million raised by the tax annually should be in the pockets of women rather than the coffers of government.

It's about bloody time this changed, and the sooner the better.

- Susie O'Brien is a Herald Sun columnist



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