Speaking as a man, I am eminently unqualified to write about the vast majority of issues pertaining to women's health. As the possessor of mismatched chromosomes, I can not speak about the lived experience of fifty percent of the population and to do so would be the height of affrontery. However, as someone who lives in the world of numbers and taxation, there is one particular issue upon which not only do I think that my opinion is valid but I feel so strongly about it that if you disagree with me, I will declare you to be completely wrong.
Last week, the 76 august servants in the red chamber of our parliament turned down amendments to the Goods And Services Taxation (A New Tax System) Act 2000, which would have exempted feminine hygiene products such as tampons and sanitary pads from GST. The set of amendments proposed by Greens senator Larissa Waters was opposed by both of the two major parties 33-15; which basically stopped the changes dead.
In a week which saw the first speech in the Senate by a woman while breastfeeding her baby, that same chamber struck down the amendments which would have moved all of those items into the same category as fresh food, water, and medical products, and removed the 10% GST which they currently attract.
And 'why?' do I not hear you ask because this is written text and I've just placed these words in your head. The reason given by several balding men in suits, is that they aren't 'essential' and that as such, placing them into that same exemption from GST in the legislation is a category error.
Now I don't know about you but having lived with three of these apparently mysterious creatures to the minds of those in the Senate, I can tell you that as an outside observer, that in my lived experience, that the events which necessitate the use of such products is not voluntary. What I find particularly galling is that Finance minister Mathias Cormann made a statement that tampons should be included at GSTable items because they are 'luxury' items. I don't know what world be lives in but a natural and unpleasant bodily function doesn't sound like very much of a 'luxury' to me. If he is able to verify this through personal experience then maybe I'm prepared to believe him but if not, I think that he is as eminently unqualified to speak on the issue as I am.
As far as I can tell, the GST on these products collects only a minimal amount of GST and serves no real purpose other than to be a de facto tax on women.
In principle I hate consumption based taxation because by definition it falls most squarely upon those people who spend a higher proportion of their income. The actual burden of consumption taxes falls most heavily upon poorer people who spend more of their income in the simple act of living than richer people and the elderly who have retired and are in that stage of life of dissaving. When you combine this the fact that women are on the whole likely to be earning a lower income than men at every stage of life, more likely to outlive their partners and that 100% of the burden of this component of GST falls on women, then the only possible conclusion that I can draw is that the GST on tampons and other feminine hygiene products is both cruel and discriminatory. I'm adamant that my opinion is correct and I don't even have to pay the tax because as a man, I just walk right on past that section of the supermarket aisle.
What infuriates me about this series of amendments failing in the Senate is this needed to be brought up at all. When they were standing around in both houses of the parliament seventeen years ago and arguing about what should and shouldn't be included under the umbrella of the GST, this should have been a no brainer. Instead, it passed the eyeballs of 226 people (mostly men) and then the Governor General and still wasn't picked up. Legislation is all about making rules and then writing exemptions to those rules and I think that it is either an act of wilful negligence or outright culpability that the parliament who could have acted deliberately chose not to.
The fact that this was introduced in the Senate and still failed, means that it won't be referred to the House and the blatantly obvious mistake still remains, except now it is no longer a mistake but the result of an active choice. What do I know about this subject though? Speaking as a man, I am eminently unqualified to write about the vast majority of issues pertaining to women's health. Speaking as an accountant? Yeah. Parliament is wrong.