Internet advocacy group, Electronic Frontiers Australia, has launched a counter-campaign against retailers lobbying for online purchases to be taxed.
According to its chairperson, Colin Jacobs, the move came in response to an open letter and media campaign by major retailers that claimed a lack of GST on Internet shopping and imports could cost thousands of jobs.
Jacobs called on all parties to wait for the Productivity Commission’s report into online shopping before taking more action.
“There hasn’t been any major evidence presented that this is a serious issue that’s damaging the Australian economy or employment prospects,” he said. “It would certainly inconvenience an awful lot of Internet users and online shoppers with e-commerce becoming more and more important.
“We don’t want to damage that unless there’s a very good reason.”
While some large traditional retailers claim imposing GST on retailers will provide a level playing field, Jacobs said other factors such as the high Australian dollar were also at play and that major players like Harvey Norman wanted to inconvenience online shoppers.
“Traditional retailers see online as competitors and so they’ll pursue anything they can to gain a competitive advantage or lessen the advantage of online retailers,” he said. “This is obviously part of that strategy.”
Australian Retailer Association executive director, Russell Zimmerman, labelled the ad campaign by major retailers a “knee-jerk reaction” and agreed that all parties should wait until the productivity commission’s report.
“There are a lot more problems with the retail industry than just the GST,” he said. “We want a level playing field and what that is will depend on what the inquiry comes up with.
“I don’t think you can pre-empt it…we don’t even know how big the problem is.”