Industry body hopeful amidst political upheaval

Another year, another Prime Minister. Late last week Malcolm Turnbull stepped aside as the Australian Prime Minister, with the Liberal party voting 45-40 in favour of Scott Morrison as his replacement.

And while this move caps off a period of political turbulence, it’s now Morrison’s job to build confidence in consumers and businesses, according to Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman.

“One of the things the industry is looking for is stability, and they are certainly looking for a government that has got some polity
views and will ensure confidence in the consumer,” Zimmerman told IRW.

“Hopefully, we’ll see a more stable government and we’ll see the government getting on with doing business.”

The industry has been showing some new shoots of reasonable trade, with monthly trade indexes from banks and industry research firms varying month to month, though generally positive.

Sure-fire ways to help the sector are within the new Government’s powers, according to Zimmerman, who puts energy prices at
the top of the list. The high cost of energy is making it difficult for retailers regardless of size to do business, he said.

“We talk to supermarkets and other retailers, their costs have gone up incredibly over the last three or four years,” Zimmerman said.

“We’re a country that has got a lot of natural resources we can use to produce power, we want to see costs go down, not go up as we’ve seen in the past.”

Zimmerman noted that small business issues have been brought into the Cabinet. He foresees the new Government concentrating much of its power in assisting small businesses, while tax cuts could potentially become a long-term play at lowering unemployment rates.

“Hopefully, long term, we will see tax cuts across all businesses, irrespective of size, because at the end of the day what we’ve seen happen overseas in the US where corporate tax rates have come down [is] more people being employed and higher wages being paid,” Zimmerman said.

“Now that can only be a good thing for Australia, and certainly being able to employ more people and get the unemployment down would be a good thing for retail in Australia.”

Despite all these possibilities, Zimmerman said there is one clear message the Government should heed in order to help the industry pick up.

“Get on with the business of governing, and get things moving, so that Australia [canbecome] an economic powerhouse.”

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