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Student turns tampon tax into national conversation

30 July 2015
Debating the addition of GST to sanitary pads and tampons

No doubt over the last week you’ve heard something about the tampon tax. The phrase refers to the adding of GST to sanitary pads and tampons. The issue has received a significant amount of media attention after a petition was started by University of Sydney student Subeta Vimalarajah, calling for sanitary products to be exempted.

Subeta and other students campaigning outside Parliament House.

The petition reached a new level last Monday night when Subeta put the issue to Treasurer Joe Hockey on the ABC’s Q&A.

Subeta, who holds the position of Wom*n’s Officer with the Students' Representative Council, says it was an experience she will never forget.

“It was so overwhelming to have Mr Hockey make a commitment to take this issue to the states. I was so grateful for his response,” says Subeta.

While there is no definitive outcome for the petition yet, there’s no doubting it has succeeded in triggering a national conversation. Almost 100,000 people have signed it in support.

Stories about the tampon tax and its political fortunes have been published by ABC online, Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, SBS, West Australian, Australian Financial Review, 9News.com.au, as well as Buzzfeed, Pedestrian TV and Yahoo7News.

Her photograph and the petition were even included in an article on the BBC website about the state of taxes on sanitary products around the world.

Subeta says she was “definitely” surprised by the amount of media attention. 

“I think the campaign has been successful because this is an issue that affects so many Australians and is a clearly unfair policy,” she says. “There have also been a lot of campaigns around this issue in the past that have progressively raised awareness – I think this campaign signifies the tipping point.”

Subeta was also an editor of Wom*n’s Honi, which hit shelves around campus last week.

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