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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8632

Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield) (16:57): In recent months a number of retailers have expressed their considerable concern about facing a loss of business to competitors over the internet, including competitors based overseas. Naturally, any businessperson is concerned to maximise their market opportunities. After comments were made by a number of retailers and a campaign was commenced late last year, an inquiry was commissioned by the Productivity Commission. It found, for example, that the online share of retail sales in Australia is six per cent versus eight per cent in the US and 11 per cent in the UK. It also made the point that online commerce is rising inexorably—from $35 billion in 2003-04 in Australia to $140 billion in 2009-10.

While there is nothing wrong with retailers making the argument they have, I do not agree with their argument. I believe it is not appropriate nor likely to be effective to seek to hold back the online tide. I think it is effectively futile because online commerce is transforming just about every industry, including retail. I also think it is undesirable because it would deny consumers choice and, based upon some of the arguments that have been made, risks returning Australia to seeking to protect Australian businesses behind tariff barriers.

I argue that it is the wrong approach because the better approach is for the retail sector to embrace the opportunities which the online revolution offers. Yes, you are now open to global competition but you also have a global marketplace. There are plenty of terrific Australian success stories in online retailing and in online business. I want to congratulate and commend all of those Australian businesses that are working so hard to succeed in the online marketplace by delivering offerings that better meet the needs of consumers and by offering attractive pricing.

House adjourned at 17:00