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Nurses want pollies to axe the tampon tax

Tampons and pads are essential items that should not incur a tax, the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) has said.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten recently called the GST on women’s sanitary products a "tax on women" and vowed to remove it should Labor win the next federal election.

The resulting media back and forth prompted ACN to reiterate its position on the tax. Chief executive Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward said personal hygiene products like tampons and pads are fundamental to a woman’s health and wellbeing.

Ward said: “Items such as condoms are given out freely to promote sexual health, yet when it comes to something as basic as sanitary items, women are discriminated against.

The nursing profession is over 90 per cent female and therefore feels strongly that women, particularly those already facing disadvantage, should not be taxed for these essential items or worse find them out of their financial reach. Sanitary products must be exempt from the GST.

Shorten and several of the Labor party’s senior members said the tax shouldn’t have been applied in the first place. “There is no question that sanitary products are aren’t a luxury item,” they said in the joint communique. “They are necessary for reproductive health and hygiene.”

Australian women spend around $300 million on sanitary products each year, Shorten said in the release. “Currently, every single one of these products is hit with the 10 per cent GST – around $30 million a year in tax – because they are not considered necessities.

“At the same time, products such as incontinence pads, sunscreen and nicotine patches – even Viagra – are exempt from the tax.”

The loss of revenue would be compensated by applying GST consistently to 12 natural therapies that are sometimes GST free, such as herbalism and naturopathy.

Labor called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to match the promise in the imminent Federal Budget.

One Nation senator Pauline Hanson told the Seven Network that scrapping the tampon tax would only save a “minuscule amount” of money.

But others, including Labor members, have said the move is about more than a dollar figure. “Scrapping the tampon tax will make sanitary products more affordable – but just as importantly, it will be an important step forward in gender equity,” Shorten said.

ACN has previously thrown its support behind Share the Dignity, a national charity that provides personal hygiene products to Australian women experiencing homelessness and poverty.

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