Federal Parliament will resume for the year in two weeks’ time, and the NRA will be renewing our lobbying efforts on a number of fronts to ensure the concerns of retailers are front of mind for the government, and indeed all MPs. No doubt the hottest topic of discussion will be the end to JobKeeper and the industrial relations reform package. We accept that the government needs to transition away from these additional costs in the Budget but we also recognise that there remain parts of our industry who continue to need support, particularly until international travel resumes. We anticipate that they will be watching very closely for the earliest signs of a “double dip” recession and, if that is the case, will hopefully respond quickly and effectively as they did last year.
The NRA will continue working with the government and in the Fair Work Commission on the reforms to the modern award system that were foreshadowed late last year. The NRA has played a critical role on your behalf in participating in the relevant working group to ensure retailers’ voices are heard in this process. We will continue our efforts on behalf of the entire industry to ensure important reforms are accepted by the Parliament and implemented.
Many of the growths projects in last year’s Budget were predicated on a vaccine for COVID-19 being made widely available in the first half of this year. The economic modelling recognises the importance of returning to life as normal, in order to return to normal business conditions. The NRA believes that retail workers should be considered a priority group in planning for the vaccine roll out. We recognise the importance of giving medically vulnerable people, such as the elderly, immediate access, along with front-line medical staff. But beyond those groups, it’s hard to imagine any other groups who come into contact with more people than retail workers. We know that so many business owners and employees continued working throughout the closedowns last year to ensure Australians had access to essential goods. We also know that this dedication will be critical to continuing the economic recovery. So the NRA has lobbied the government, and will continue to do so, to ensure essential retail workers are considered part of the “front-line” in treating the economic symptoms of COVID-19.
Finally, it was pleasing to see a continuation of the strong retail trade figures in the preliminary data for December, released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The ABS reported growth of 9.4 per cent for the month, compared with the previous December. While the seasonally adjusted figures were down compared with the November figures, this is simply a result of the extraordinary spending levels that were recorded in that previous month as state economies opened up again. Year-on-year, this is a great result and I hope it’s one that members have experienced as well. We will finalise our pre- and post-Christmas figures once the final data is released next month.
All the best for the week ahead.