Natural Healthcare to be taxed

By Val Allen, PNMC Director & Naturopath – Labor will introduce a tax on natural healthcare if elected, in order to offset it’s proposed removal of the ‘tampon tax’. Currently natural healthcare is GST-free.

Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek and opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King formally launched the policy on Sunday 29th April saying “Scrapping the tampon tax will make sanitary products more affordable”. However, removing the tax would require the States and Territories to agree to the GST changes.

To make up for the revenue shortfall, Labor will impose a GST on natural therapies. Under the changes, natural healthcare – including naturopathy, herbalism, homeopathy, pilates and reflexology – would be hit with the GST for the first time in a move that will most certainly cause massive resistance from natural healthcare practitioners and the natural healthcare industry in general.

The Chief Medical Officer and National Health and Medical Research Council believe that natural therapies are not supported by scientific evidence and are unproven. In taking this stance, what appears to have been ignored is the fact that naturopaths and herbalists are recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and as such, practitioners are approved to prescribe and dispense practitioner-only medication. This medication meets the criteria of having a proven specific therapeutic benefit for patients. Naturopaths and herbalists are professionally qualified in nutrition – this curiously is accepted as proven by the Chief Medical Officer and National Health and Medical Research Council and has been retained for health fund rebates. So why are these therapies being targeted as unproven?

Labor claims that applying the GST to the twelve natural therapies will increase state revenues by $324 million and removing the tampon tax will reduce state revenues by $313 million over a decade. However, what Labor has failed to address is the disastrous effect on the natural healthcare industry causing an increase in the cost of consultations and treatments. Those unable to afford such increases would impose an additional burden on the already strained Medicare system, make many businesses unviable, cause significant unemployment and reduce income tax revenue in the process!

There are over 3,500 naturopaths and herbalists in Australia, all running small businesses. Our local industry brings in over $3.5 billion to the Australian economy and services over 60% of the population. We are one of the few industries where the majority of our supplements are manufactured in Australia. The export arm of our industry also brings in over $3 billion to the Australian economy, and the quality of our products is highly sought by overseas countries. The flow-on effect of penalising the natural therapy industry will be catastrophic for our manufacturers and small businesses.

The result? In reality, the forecast increase in state revenues of $324 million would be dramatically reduced. So why ruin an industry that more than 60% of Australians support. By all means, remove the tampon tax, but find a more viable way of meeting the shortfall.

Taxing the natural healthcare industry is a no-brainer and will most certainly attract a massive public outcry.