CEO Dominique Lamb

Politicking over penalty rates again; plastic bag bans attracting the ire of ill-prepared supermarket shoppers across the nation; and Godfrey’s co-founder re-taking the reins at a sprightly 100 years old – it’s certainly been an interesting week in the retail sector!

The Opposition Leader Bill Shorten this week made a call that would have sent a great many of you into a panic, by announcing that under his leadership, the ALP would be snatching back those much-needed company tax cuts from those of you with a turnover of between $10 million and $50 million.

But just days later after succumbing to party pressure, he thankfully backed down on the plan.

One thing the ALP is refusing to back down on, however, is its plan to reverse the reductions in Sunday penalty rates in all five of the Awards affected – including retail and hospitality.

And the ALP has vowed to do it within the first 100 days of government, which means that depending on when an election is called and who takes the helm, penalty rates could be restored by as early as the next financial year.

The need for this reduction was something I’ve spoken about at lengths over the last 18 months. It’s an issue we made several submissions on, and the NRA’s expert legal team fought and won a case in the Federal Court to defend the FWC’s decision.

So, you can no doubt understand then, it’s an issue I most certainly won’t be backing down on either – nor will the rest of the business community. But we have a fight on our hands, given that an election is looming. That means this issue is going to turn into an even bigger political football, in a game where facts are abandoned and emotional arguments rule!

You know the retail sector is struggling and so does the rest of the business community.

The only people who cannot seem to grasp the commercial realities of running a retail business in 2018 (or any business for that matter) are also, ironically, those who’ve never actually done so. No wonder they don’t get it.

See, employers have all been employees before. Most likely for a long time and in several different industries and positions. By the time you take that enormous risk to run a business, chances are you’ve had a bucket of experience as an employee, but chances are you’ve also had an unsuccessful business as well.

You may have had several in fact – but you have learned and grown along the way. You’ve picked yourself up and dusted yourself off, and gotten back in the saddle and tried again. It’s been a long road of success and failure to get to where you are now (likely working a tonne more than your employees and with ten times the stress).

But anyone who listens to the rhetoric surrounding this issue would think you’re rich (and lucky!), and that you don’t deserve any kind of break when it comes to creating a livelihood for hundreds of thousands of Australians.

This is an issue that is not going to go away. It will continue to be hijacked by those motivated to win for political gain.

I want each and every one of you to be prepared for the battle that is going to play out in the media over the coming months as we hurtle toward another Federal Election, and make sure you are able to stand up for yourselves and be heard on this issue too.

Talk to your staff about why running a retail business is hard work. Explain the realities of what you’re doing to those who work with you so they understand the challenges you face, rather than what they’re led to believe. Help them to understand why you needed this measure in your own business, and how it helps you create work for them.  

Talk to your community as well – write to your local member if you want to!

But please, don’t allow this argument painting employers as greedy, heartless fat cats become the only voice. We all have to keep talking about this, so we can make sure that the business community is recognised for your remarkable contribution to the Australian economy, and that your voice is heard too.