Myer squares off against Government: ‘Consumers want certainty’

By Claire Reilly

Myer has come out swinging at the Federal Government, with the chairman of the company’s board using his address to shareholders today to criticise “uncertainty at the political level” for contributing to poor business performance and weak consumer sentiment.

Chairman Paul McClintock said it was “incumbent upon business and government, working together collaboratively and with an eye to the future, to develop an environment in which business can prosper, skills can be learned and Australians can benefit”. He also noted that Australian consumers and businesses alike “want and need certainty”.

“While our Sales in the First Quarter reflected a modest improvement in consumer sentiment, the challenging retail and economic environment continues, both in Australia and internationally,” he said.

“Additional taxes and charges such as the carbon tax and the flood levy on the consumer certainly impact the discretionary retail sector, and current industrial relations settings have significantly increased our costs.”

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McClintock also weighed in on a popular bugbear of the Australian retail industry – the Low Value Import Threshold that allows online retailers to sell to consumers without charging GST.

“As a company, we are still frustrated by the duty and GST loophole that exists that provides overseas online retailers with an advantage over local retailers,” he said. “The internet has broken down traditional trade barriers and it is critical that reforms keep pace to ensure our local businesses are competitive.

“We appreciate the current level of interest by State governments as they seek to claim the GST revenue being lost to them as a result of online sales to overseas retailers. We welcomed the Federal government’s recent acknowledgement that this is a problem.

“If the Federal government truly values the retail sector, the impact of increasing labour costs and uncompetitive nature of online retailing must be balanced by measures to improve productivity or flexibility.

“We look forward to the outcomes of the GST review, as well as the Low Import Threshold taskforce delivering reforms to ensure the retail industry can continue providing economic benefits to all Australians by remaining globally competitive.”

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