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Welcome to 2019!

As you would have all experienced yourselves, Christmas 2018 was another busy and successful one for retail.

Both the Christmas trade period and Boxing Day saw record sales figures as shoppers flocked to stores across the country. This was most welcome considering that 2018 had been a relatively slow year for the sector.

With the ABS retail data for November 2018 due to be released later this week we are anticipating strong results and hopefully this will be a sign of good things to come in 2019.

Speaking of things to come, this year is of course also an election year, with Australians due to go to the polls in May. The NRA stands ready to enjoy a constructive and positive relationship with whichever party forms government post-election, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to outline some key issues which we would like addressed by all elected representatives.

The emergence of Amazon, coupled with the loss of several Australian retail brands in 2018, has led some to conclude that bricks and mortar retail is slowly dying. However, what most of these doomsayers fail to note is that online sales still only account for 8.9 per cent of total retail sales in Australia. Thus far Amazon has failed to have anywhere near the impact in Australia that it has had in the US or UK.

However, it is important that the government ensures that all retailers selling in Australia (whether it be a corner store or Amazon) are operating on a level playing field. Hence, the NRA welcomed the move last year by the government to close the GST tax loophole on imported items below $1,000.  All we ask is that the rules are consistent for everyone and this will be our position during the next term of parliament.

But the number one issue for the NRA ahead of election 2019 is easily regarding Industrial Relations.

As you all know, policies in this area have the potential to make or break a business. Retailers simply cannot afford – metaphorically or literally – for parliamentarians to get IR policy wrong.

We are concerned at the prospect of Bill Shorten’s pledge, should he be elected Prime Minister, that he would seek to reverse the FWC ruling on Sunday penalty rates. While we don’t doubt that Mr Shorten has good intentions, any rise in a worker’s pay packet is utterly pointless if it means their employer can no longer afford to hire them. The NRA will be advocating to all political parties to stand by the independent umpire’s ruling on this matter and we hope that all will listen to the concerns of retailers.

Another IR issue that took centre stage in 2018 – and will continue to be a contentious matter in the next term of parliament – is ‘double-dipping’ claims relating to casual workers.

Make no mistake, double-dipping has the potential to financially cripple many small businesses spanning numerous industries right across Australia. The NRA therefore welcomed the move in December by Federal Minister Kelly O’Dwyer that the Government would recommend regulatory changes to this loophole. Ideally though, the NRA would like the next parliament to make the necessary amendments to the Fair Work Act to clarify the definition of a casual worker and to provide certainty for small business owners throughout the country.

The above are just some of the key issues facing retail and we urge all legislators to understand the impact that poor policy can have on one of Australia’s most important industries.

I wish you all the best for the year ahead and on behalf of your industry association, we look forward to again doing all we can to help you navigate your legal, compliance, IR and contractual issues in the world of retail!