Opinion

Common sense decision on tampon tax at last

By Tara Whitsed

Why on earth did it take almost 20 years for the so-called ‘‘tampon tax’’ to be removed?

The ABC this week reported that after an 18-year campaign, the 10 per cent tax on tampons and pads would be removed after states and territories agreed to make sanitary products exempt from the GST.

As I sit here writing this column, I feel as though the arguments as to why women should not have to pay tax for something they absolutely cannot avoid purchasing are blindingly obvious.

Yet why it took almost two decades, since the introduction of GST, for the government to listen to the cries of women, desperate to discontinue ploughing their hard-earned money into purchasing necessary sanitary products in order to remain hygienic?

I must admit that until recent years, I hadn’t really given purchasing feminine products a second thought.

And it was not just pads and tampons that I was spending money on ... there was contraception, pain relief and other medical costs associated with having a menstrual cycle.

I blissfully purchased away while I was financially supported by my parents, which is the situation I would hope most young girls would be in.

But as I got older and started to provide for myself, I began to detest having to buy those necessary products every month.

At university, when I was down to my last $10, spending more than half of it on a packet of tampons was something I did not want to do ... but had to do.

It was not until I became a journalist that I thought beyond my own self and became aware of the Share the Dignity campaign.

The initiative sees collection points dotted across the country, and here in Shepparton, for the donations of pads, tampons and any other necessary hygiene products that women facing financial hardship simply cannot afford.

During this time I also remember watching a documentary in which a homeless woman spoke of how demeaning it was each month when she faced her menstrual cycle without protection, once again.

She would embarrassingly go to public toilets to clean herself and use toilet paper as protection.

It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear her story and truly pushed the issue into the forefront of my mind, particularly when products such as condoms and Viagra are free of GST.

While the recent decision for all governments to scrap the ‘‘tampon tax’’ is fantastic; to me, it all seems to be a case of too little too late when people like the homeless woman have been suffering in silence for far too long.

It took thousands of signatures across several petitions and almost two decades to pass before the government listened to the cries of women.

With Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg saying this was a ‘‘common sense’’ decision, I ask the government — where was your common sense 18 years ago?

Tara Whitsed is a journalist at The News.