Trevor Malcolm Turnbull

It’s been a week of distractions in business and politics, from the instability of global stock markets to the decision of the Federal Government to abandon the idea of increasing the GST, to a looming Ministerial reshuffle.

These are factors that can dent consumer confidence, which has otherwise been improving, so we’re hopeful that things settle down quickly.

We welcome the decision in relation to the GST. In our recent delegation to Canberra, we passed on the feedback we received from members last month which was mostly critical of increasing the GST, given that our sector would feel the upfront impacts of changing prices and the potential for a scare campaign. The National Retail Association (NRA) made the point very strongly that while we continue to support reform of the tax system, we do not support tax increases without correlative reductions in other regressive taxes. For the sake of consumers we are pleased that this issue has been settled quickly.

The Federal Government must now look to finalise its overall blueprint ahead of the Budget in May. The NRA has made a submission to the pre-Budget consultation process highlighting the needs of the sector and its importance to the national economy.

Although a GST rise is now off the table, other tax reform is still possible and there are other important issues relating to training, workplace relations and the tourist tax refund scheme that we believe need to be addressed in the interests of retailers. We will continue to represent the retail sector strongly on these issues. You can download the NRA’s pre-Budget submission here.

This week we were in Canberra again, this time around a table with unions, other industries and the Minister for Employment, Senator Michaelia Cash. This roundtable allowed the government to consult on the recommendations in the Productivity Commission’s final report (including on penalty rates, agreement-making and flexibility). Your association was quoted numerous times in the Commission’s report and was very pleased to be one of about 10 industry associations invited to participate in this roundtable with the Minister.

Lastly, there’s been debate unfolding in New South Wales and Queensland about “lock out” laws for hotel and nightclub patrons.  We understand the need for the State Governments to address issues of anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related violence. However, we are very concerned about the impact of lock out laws on non-licensed venues (such as cafes and takeaways) that rely on the passing trade from late-night revellers.

As I’ve said on numerous occasions in the face of various proposal for regulations, outright bans are a blunt policy tool. Surely in this world of new technology and innovative solutions, we can develop a policy response that doesn’t punish everyone for the sins of a few.

So as New South Wales reviews the impact of its laws, and as Queensland considers implementing its own regime, we urge those in charge to closely examine the impact on all business that rely on evening trade.