A win for Gerry Harvey as Government inquiry into e-trading announced

By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: Gerry Harvey has had a win in his longterm battle to have retail conditions altered to suit traditional retailers. Just weeks after calling for a more protectionist Government stance on online retailing, a cabal of Ministers have announced an inquiry into the future of Australian retail.

The major focus of this inquiry will be on those businesses that are described as “rorting the $1,000 low-value threshold”. No information on how businesses are exploiting this threshold was provided in the release announcing this inquiry.

This announcement was made jointly by Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor and Small Business Minister Nick Sherry.

The Federal Government has estimated online retail sales to be currently between $19 and $24 billion per annum. This equates to 3 per cent of all sales. With the Government predicting that this figure will rise, and then rise dramatically with the wider adoption of the NBN, this inquiry by the Productivity Commission is designed to analyse its effect on the Harvey Normans and Bunnings Warehouses of the world.

“The Commission will examine the current structure, performance and efficiency of the retail sector and the drivers of structural change in the industry, including globalisation, increasing household and business access to the digital economy, changing cost structures, employment issues and the exchange rate,” reads the release.

“The Commission will also consider the broader issues posed by an increase in online purchasing by Australian consumers and the role online purchasing plays in providing consumers with greater choice, access and convenience. The sustainability and appropriateness of the current indirect tax arrangements in this environment will also be considered.”

Shorten himself has some very direct words for traditional retailers that are currently resistant to change.

“Online retailing is here to stay. It is something every Australian consumer and every retailer is going to have to come to grips with, and sooner rather than later,” he said.

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