ARA policy initiatives

To boost retailing in Victoria.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has released its list of priorities for the newly elected State Government in Victoria, intended to benefit Victorian retailers and the state more broadly.

ARA executive director, Russell Zimmerman said with the state currently in a budget surplus, the government is in a good position to invest in creating the conditions retailers need to thrive.

“Since the previous election, the Victorian retail industry has grown to represent a $62.5 billion contribution, allowing retailers to employ 16,500 more Victorians in May 2018 than in May 2014,” he said.

According to Zimmerman, three key issues to address are payroll tax, skills and retail tenancy.

Payroll tax is effectively an employment levy and discourages smaller retailers from growing their businesses and taking on extra staff, he said. “While the ARA would ultimately like to see payroll tax abolished altogether, we believe the first step is to raise the threshold to $800,000 to provide immediate relief for medium-sized retailers and small retailers looking to grow.”

On the skills front, the ARA will work with the State Government to ensure retail is listed as a priority industry for Vocational Education and Training.

The development of important skilling and retraining requirements such as business transformation, succession planning and structural change were crucial for Victorian retailers looking to the future, he said.

Over the last four years, there has been a significant decline in retail traineeships and apprenticeships from 4,700 students at the end of the 2013/2014 financial year to just 3,000 at the end of 2016/2017.

The ARA will also advocate leveling the playing field for retail tenants, with key measures including market appraisals and information transparency on the radar.

“Retailers face a power imbalance when re-negotiating their leases and the Victorian retail leasing legislation requires important changes to level the playing field,” Zimmerman said. “We want the government to improve transparency and reform market reviews to ensure retailers are not coerced into accepting bad deals.”

Other ARA initiatives include taxation reform and developing a population strategy.

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