Primary Sources 50 stories from 50 years of the Archives

Should there be tax on toilet paper?

Papers within the collection of publisher D.W. Thorpe reveal a debate concerning whether toilet paper ought to be taxed or not, with regard to its nature as a 'single use' item which promoted health and sanitary practices.

The Toilet Roll Manufacturers Association was formed after World War II by manufacturers who had difficulties in obtaining paper from which to make their products. The majority of members, like D.W. Thorpe, were also engaged in other paperbased industries. The collection reveals much about post-war business practices, brands and marketing strategies, providing an insight into ongoing difficulties caused by the war and the challenges of dealing with government.

A roll of Bronco toilet paper dating from about 1900 highlights the health benefits of the use of toilet paper as opposed to commonly used newspaper, which could be toxic through contamination by antimony used in the printing process. The use of toilet paper in Melbourne increased as sewage systems improved throughout the first half of the century. A survey by the Association revealed that over 50 varieties of toilet paper were sold in Victoria in the mid-1950s.

Toilet paper is currently tax exempt.

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