People often accuse retailers of their advertising efforts at certain times of the year – Christmas, Mothers’ Day and so on. But let’s face it, we are rank amateurs compared with what Australia has been through in the last couple of months!
But it’s over now, and it’s safe to turn on your TV or radio again.
While the NRA tries to remain politically neutral, there were aspects of policies from both sides that would have been attractive and concerning to the retail sector.
On the Labor side, for example, we had welcomed promised funding boosts for training (which had been backed up by private assurances that funding would flow to industry training groups such as the NRA, even with the planned shift in focus to TAFE and public sector training). We had also welcomed the Labor Party’s plan to implement nationally consistent regulations on plastic shopping bags.
However, clearly we were deeply concerned about Labor’s promise to reverse the independent Fair Work Commission’s decision on Sunday penalty rates in retail and fast food. And while Labor’s “living wage” policy would have put more money in consumers’ pockets, at least some of the burden would have fallen on to small retail business owners. How Labor policies impact businesses is an area in which they will need to do some soul-searching.
On the Government side, we are very heartened by the commitment to leave the wages decision to the Fair Work Commission. There is simply no place for politicians in deciding these matters. And we are supportive of the proposed personal income tax cuts, which should create greater disposable income. We will be publicly pressuring the Senate to pass those as soon as possible.
We will also be pressuring the Government in relation to supporting training programs for retail. As we’ve said previously, this is one of the nation’s largest employment sectors. It’s the only large employment sector that doesn’t have a government department at either the state or federal level to support its operation. And it is one of a small number that can scale up job creation very rapidly.
However, boosting employment in retail relies on both a strong and confident consumer base, and a skilled workforce. As the Government boosts consumer purchasing power through its tax cuts, it should capitalise on the potential boost in economic activity with training and skills development in the retail sector. This is a message we will be pressing home in the months ahead, and indeed over the next three years.