Words by Bonnie, 24 NSW
Illustration by Aileen, You can find more of her work on Instagram @cartoonsforsanity and @aileenetc
Last week 6 women were murdered as a result of domestic violence. This occurred in the same week the removal of the tampon tax was discussed in parliament. This event seems like a win for women and whilst I am happy for the symbolic move, I am not convinced it will even begin to tackle the real reform needed for women today.
So what does the removal of the tax mean for you and I? We will no longer pay the 10% GST previously placed on sanitary items, moving them from the ‘luxury items’ to the ‘essential health’ category. It now puts tampons in the same category as viagra and condoms. That’s right, it puts products that help women and anyone who menstruates stay healthy and comfortable during a natural, unstoppable, physical symptom of female reproduction in the same category as sexual health products for men. People are saying it will save women money and they’re right, it will. This tax cut saves the average woman about 64 cents a month. That’s not even a 20 cent coin per week. 20 cents, this is not a big ‘win’.
Sure, it’s symbolically powerful. The government has recognised that having a period is not a ‘luxury’ – something women have known since the beginning of time. But it’s not some heroic or revolutionary act. This tax came into effect in 2001 when the Liberal government introduced it. Fixing someone else’s oppressive decision is not ‘giving’ women anything, it’s just lifting something that never should have weighed on us to begin with. As much as the government would like us to believe we have moved forward, we’ve just been restored back to our position pre-2001. So thanks?
Okay, so let’s have a look at what the current government has actually done for women since being in power. They’ve refused gender quotas within the party. They’ve refused equal pay legislation. They’ve refused an extension of paid parental leave schemes (unlike New Zealand). They’ve claimed to ‘prioritise’ domestic violence services spending $54 million and yet they have also spent $48.7 million on the Captain Cook memorial. And let’s not forget the $80 billion corporate tax cut.
But don’t you remember all that talk about safety? Scott Morrison, himself as the former treasurer, stood up in May and said that keeping Australians safe was one part of the government’s five key points. But at the same time has refused recommendations to introduce paid domestic violence leave, a core element of providing women the economic freedom to leave violence. If they care so much about safety, why don’t they listen to legal services and actually initiate meaningful law reform surrounding domestic violence and AVOs? Why doesn’t he promise, like Labor did in the 2018 budget, to increase safe housing and crisis centers for women and children fleeing domestic violence? The removal of the tampon tax splashed across headlines is just a distraction from their refusal to make meaningful change.
Next month on the 25th of November is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I’m hoping our leaders will do more than pin the white ribbon to their shirt. I am hoping they will actually do something because saving women 20 cents per week does not cut it.