By Aimee Chanthadavong

As the larger retail chains including Myer, David Jones and Harvey Norman continue their demand for the government to impose GST on Australia’s overseas online purchases, independent senator for South Australia Nick Xenephon has told Retailbiz those being hurt most in all of this are small businesses.

Describing the highly controversial campaign as like watching “Goliath pretend he’s David”, Xenephon has argued small retailers are not only battling against the growth of online sales but also the retail giants.

“The point is that small retailers are more vulnerable because they don’t have the same buying power, they can’t get the discounts and they can’t get the rebate that the big retailers can get,” he said.

“The only realistic way in dealing with this issue is if anyone was going to get an exemption from GST on goods under $1000, then it should only be the small business sector as that will help level the playing field between small retailers and the big guys.”

Leading a similar argument is Peter Strong, Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA) executive director, who said the battle against GST is nothing new to small retailers.

“For the last five to six years small retailers have been fighting against GST because there’s just a lot of paper work involved. The larger chains are really just having a whinge about it, which is really laughable, because they’re been getting the same treatment that they’ve given to us for a long time,” he said.

“Removing the 10 per cent isn’t going to make a big different as people will continue to buy online because it’s just cheaper for them. And I think the big retailers have got it all wrong [with this campaign] and I think they have other motives.”

Strong said: “We welcome Bill Shorten's Productivity Commission review and we’re looking forward to seeing the outcome. Though it’s expected to take up to nine months, it’s something that can’t be rush because it’s a very hard issues but the idea is to just do it as quick as possible.”

Xenephon has urged the federal government not to give into the demands of the retail giants before carefully considering which parts of the retail sector are most deserving of government assistance.

“The campaign has been a clumsy one,” he said.

“It’s important for both big and small retailers to contribute constructively into the inquiry as it’s something that needs to be done on a government level before the next Christmas period.”