Recently the Victoria University Politics Society hosted the Green Party co-leaders for a presentation and Q&A, which I was lucky enough to attend. After the event, the executive officer of the Politics Society got to interview both James Shaw and Metiria Turei.
It was interesting to see their take on the proposition to make women’s sanitary products GST-free.
Here’s the relevant excerpt from their interview:
Jack: Recently on social media there’s been a big petition around kind of removing the GST off woman’s sanitary products, what is the Green’s position?
James: This is a bit like, a few years ago there was an argument people were saying you should take GST off of fruit and veggies. We don’t believe in taking GST off anything because it creates a bureaucracy too, you know?
Jack: where do you draw the line?
James: Precisely, but there is an argument to be made. This is not my mastermind special subject sorry. But there is an argument to be made that it should be subsidized and or funded through a mechanism like an ACC say. I mean it’s not it’s not an accident. But essentially saying that it’s kind of a health care cost. Yes, which, you know, half the population should have better access to. And so you know you know, we’ve said that we’d be up for examining that kind of mechanism to deal with it because it’s just appalling you know. There was that story about people using socks and whatever have you. So that is unacceptable and this is in the grand scheme of things. This is not a major cost. And it would be pretty easy for us to do something about that.
Metiria: The problem with doing that is you can’t guarantee the savings will be passed on. So both retailers and the producers will soak up that fifteen percent. So we have to find ways of actually making them practically cheaper. The best way to do that is to have them provided through Pharmac and therefore through pharmacies and through health services like you can do with condoms you can just rock up with a prescription and just get them over the counter. And they are just as good products as any others. But that’s the easiest way to make sure that people actually get cheap or free sanitary products.
Basically, their general position is to have better access to women’s sanitary products using government health services such as Pharmac, and to make tax-payer funded sanitary products available with a prescription through pharmacies.
I definitely agree that we have to be very weary about taking GST off of any items (no other product in NZ is GST free, unlike in the UK where ‘luxury items’ and ‘necesary items’ are taxed differently), especially considering that taking the tax off of sanitary products may just allow the manafacturer to profit 15% more, rather than passing that saving on to the consumer. I would certainly avoid unnecessarily complicating the tax system, which is a point James brought up; heck, Texas has a sales-tax exemption for seasoned croutons.
It’s a very sensible and balanced approach to the issue.