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Retailer group says GST-free campaign stinks

January 19, 2011: The Fair Imports Alliance, a coalition of retail and wholesale industry associations, has called on big retailers to drop their campaign on GST-free private imports, while the Federal Government has announced a clamp down on GST import rorters.

The Fair Imports Alliance has written to the members of the big retail coalition including chief executives and boards of directors of the various companies involved asking them to stop their campaign and instead focus on the Productivity Commission ‘Inquiry into the Future of Retail’. Click here for text of the FIA’s letter.

The Productivity Commission inquiry will look at a range of issues around ‘the implications of globalisation for the Australian retail industry’.

The terms of reference are:
1. The current structure, performance and efficiency of the retail sector and impediments to its contribution to the Australian economy;
2. The drivers of structural change in the retail industry, including globalisation, increasing household and business access to the digital economy, cost structures of the domestic retail industry, employment structure, the exchange rate and structural change driven by the resources boom;
3. The broader issues which are contributing to an increase in online purchasing by Australian consumers and the role of online purchasing in providing consumers with greater choice, access and convenience;
4. The sustainability and appropriateness of the current indirect tax arrangements in this environment, including the impact on Commonwealth and State and Territory budgets, and the extent to which technology could reduce the administrative costs of collecting indirect taxes and duty on imported goods; and
5. Any other regulatory or policy issues which impact on structural change in the sector.

‘Anti-rort’ campaign

A report will be delivered to Federal Parliament in September. In the meantime, the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor, has announced the Government’s intention to launch a ‘compliance campaign’ to ensure that GST for imports with a value of $1000 or less were not being exploited. The campaign will start early this year.

‘It’s important people follow the rules and not try to rort the system. Customs will work closely with the retail sector to identify particular areas of risk for non-compliance,’ Minister O’Connor said.

Fair Imports Alliance spokesperson Brad Kitschke said the big retailers’ media campaign been an unmitigated disaster.

‘It’s a public relations nightmare. We warned them, we asked them not to go ahead with the campaign which actually doesn’t address the issue properly and is narrowly focused.

‘The issue is broader than just the GST. It’s about custom duties, illicit trade and consumer protection. Consumers have rightly rejected this campaign by the big retailers. They have not done their research and they are asking the Government to implement a solution to a problem that goes well beyond the GST. They have just got it wrong.

‘Where was Gerry Harvey or Solomon Lew when we were fighting to have this issue addressed in July 2010 or for the five years before that? They have jumped on board at the last minute and have royally stuffed things up,’ Mr Kitschke said.

The Fair Imports Alliance comprises: Australian Retailers Association (ARA); Australian Sporting Goods Association (ASGA); Bicycle Industries Australia (BIA); Australian Toy Association (ATA); Photo Marketing Association (PMA); Australian Fishing Trade Association (AFTA); Australian Booksellers Association (ABA); Australian Music Association (AMA); and the Retail Cycle Traders Australian (RCTA).

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