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Independent MP Zali Steggall launches campaign to remove GST from face masks

A campaign to ditch the GST from face masks has been launched by independent MP Zali Steggall, who claims removing the tax would encourage more people to wear them.

The former Olympian - who ousted former Prime Minister Tony Abbott from the Sydney seat of Warringah in the 2019 federal election - has started a petition calling for the protective covers to be exempt from the tax.

"Clearly price point is an issue for many in the community... I think this is an important step the government can take to reinforce that masks are an essential health item," she told 9News.

READ MORE: How to wear a face mask, as Victorian premier instructs residents to wear them

Ms Steggall is intending to raise the matter with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg when parliament resumes on August 24.

She's also writing to state and territory leaders to seek support.

"We have the prime minister sitting with the National Cabinet, I think this should be on their agenda as something to talk about," she said.

"I would urge the prime minister and state premiers, I think this is a simple step you can take to help the adoption of people wearing masks."

Mr Frydenberg said face masks were subject to GST "but are tax deductible if used for work purposes".

"Any change to the GST would require the support of all the states and territories," he said.

READ MORE: Man fined for breaching mask mandate due to 'bad pimple'

Health Department Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy told a parliamentary inquiry today that advice on face masks had been "an evolving story".

Evidence initially suggested their main benefit was to prevent an infected person from transmitting the virus.

"More evidence in recent months has come from overseas, suggesting... when you have community transmission, general mask-wearing or face-covering is appropriate," he said.

He said the department "100 per cent" supported Victoria's decision to make face masks mandatory, and they could also be beneficial in NSW, where there are small amounts of community transmission.

"But there is no scientific evidence or advice that masks be worn generally in other parts of the country, where there is not community transmission," he said.

READ MORE: NSW Mask guidelines: What you need to know

Manly Food Co-Operative chairperson Sarah Weate said a face mask sold for $15 included around $1.36 GST.

"If you're buying three masks at $15 each, you're paying the best part of $5 in GST," she said.

"If someone is on minimum wage or government benefits, they shouldn't have to pay tax on something that is not only going to help their health, but help the whole community if they're wearing them."

In 2018, the states and territories agreed to dump the so-called "tampon tax" - the 10 per cent GST on sanitary products - after an 18-year public campaign.

When asked if Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas would support a move to remove the GST from face masks, a spokesperson said: "We're happy to work with the Federal Government on any proposals that help aid the fight against this pandemic."

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet did not comment.

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Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-australia-zali-steggall-launches-campaign-to-remove-gst-from-face-masks/b44f2f13-ff53-49fa-8bfb-575b2dc0364d

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