Culture

Bill Shorten Confirms Labor Won’t Scrap The Tampon Tax If They’re Elected

What the hell, Bill?

tampon tax

The 10 percent GST levy on tampons, sanitary pads and other women’s health products has been in the news for a while. In May last year, then-Treasurer Joe Hockey was grilled on the tax’s unfairness by an audience member on Q&A. Since then, the movement to scrap the tampon tax has received widespread support from tens of thousands of Australians, as well as getting its very own rap video featuring Tony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster.

It seemed like a no-brainer when the federal Labor Party declared back in August 2015 that it would scrap the tampon tax if it were elected. But now it appears that promise wasn’t worth very much. In a forum held by Sky News in Brisbane last night, Shorten gave a pretty blunt “no” when an audience member asked him if the tampon tax would be abolished under a Labor government.

“I’m not gonna make a promise that I can’t keep,” Shorten said. “Let me be really straight about the finances of the nation…what I won’t do is be a big-spending government. What we won’t do is make promises we can’t keep.”

“It’d be nice to have a job where you could go along and tell everyone everything they want to hear, but that’s not leadership. That’s following.”

In fairness to Shorten, he can’t scrap the tampon tax by himself; all the state and territory leaders have to come on board too, and several of them, like NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian, have indicated they want the tax to stay.

But to give up on the issue so easily, after explicitly promising the opposite, is pretty weak from a guy who says he wants to help the most vulnerable. The relatively small financial hit to the budget that would come from scrapping the tax would have immense benefits for women who need it most; research shows that the tampon tax disproportionately affects homeless, incarcerated and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

What’s more, Australia’s getting left behind on this. Governments in Canada, the UK and the US city of Chicago have recently moved to axe tampon taxes of their own, and the EU is looking to do the same. Australia’s been debating this pretty basic measure for at least 15 years; if Labor are so willing to give up on it before an election, how much longer will we have to wait?