By Aimee Chanthadavong

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed the Productivity Commission’s Future of Australian Retail Inquiry and the government’s approach to evidence based policy.

Russell Zimmerman, ARA executive director, told Retailbiz that the inquiry has been a long time coming as retail associations have spent several months working with the government to provide an informed approach to the ongoing sustainability of retail trade.

“We are hoping is to find a level playing field for retailers across Australia to remain competitive across the board for both local and international retailers,” he said.

“We’re not against or for the GST-threshold but what we are trying to achieve is making sure whether you’re just an online retailer or whether you operate an overseas online store that you are able to compete in an equal manner.”

As part of the inquiry, the government will look towards a customs compliant campaign to begin in early 2011, which will address the problem of identifying players rorting the system, as well as a lack of enforcement of current importation regulations.

For the first time, the inquiry will also look at where the $240 billion retail sector and Australia’s largest employer is heading and where it wants to be in 25 years.

“The industry provides up to1.2 million vital jobs and we need to protect the employees and employers by maintaining sustainability in the industry and I think by looking at where the retail industry should be in 25 years is very important,” Zimmerman said.