THE Australian Retailers Association (ARA) said January 2018 trade figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) represent a timid post-Christmas trade, with a 2.09 percent total growth year-on-year.

ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman said the ARA and Roy Morgan post-Christmas sales predictions were close to the actual post-Christmas trade results released today by the ABS. 

"The ARA and Roy Morgan release the only professionally researched retail predictions annually, and we are hopeful our post-Christmas forecast is in-line with the actual December and January trade results," Mr Zimmerman said.

"We predicted a 2.9 percent increase in post-Christmas trade, forecasting Australians to spend almost $17.9 billion from December 26, 2017 to January 15, 2018. As this forecast is over a three-week period the ARA and Roy Morgan will analyse these results against the December and January trade results to see if our predictions are on track.”

The strongest retail category in January was Other Retailing (3.22%), which was primarily driven by online retail which grew 3.23 percent year-on-year.

"The ARA and Roy Morgan predicted online retail to grow the strongest of all categories in post-Christmas trading, forecasting a 4.02 percent increase in post-Christmas trade,” Mr Zimmerman said.

"With the constant increase in online sales, we believe online retail will only grow even bigger as we continue to progress through the new year."

Unfortunately, Mr Zimmerman said, Newspapers & Books (-5.08%), Furniture (-2.43%), Footwear & Personal Accessories (-2.32%), Takeaway food (-0.95%) and Department Stores (-0.94%) all received negative figures in January.

"Although footwear is down at this point, we are hoping to see a pick-up in February’s retail figures as the back-to-school period was later than normal this year," Mr Zimmerman said.

"We believe furniture sales are lower than usual, partly due to the drop in the housing market and widespread pricing pressures for furniture retailers in Australia."

Across the country, Victoria (3.85%), South Australia (2.52%) and Tasmania (2.17%), showed the strongest year-on-year growth of all the states. While both New South Wales (1.84%) and Queensland (1.79%) remained steady, the Australian Capital Territory (0.44%) received minimal growth, and Western Australia (-0.27%) and the Northern Territory (-1.57%) received negative figures in January.

"With retail figures continuing to underperform, landlords need to understand how escalating rental costs affect an already struggling industry," Mr Zimmerman said.

The ARA claims current rental increases are unsustainable with rental prices increasing 5 percent on average, therefore retailers are looking for landlords to meet them halfway and shoulder some of the burden.

"The retail industry is struggling, and without retail landlords won’t survive, so we need support now," Mr Zimmerman said.


Monthly Retail Growth (December 2017– January 2018 seasonally adjusted)

Food retailing (0.01%), Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-0.69%), Cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services (0.05%), Department stores (-0.57%), Other retailing (1.00%), and Household goods retailing (0.05%).

Queensland (0.42%), Western Australia (0.32%), Victoria (0.26%), Tasmania (0.31%), Australian Capital Territory (0.04%), South Australia (-0.61%), New South Wales (-0.22%) and Northern Territory (-0.50%).

Total sales (0.07%).


Year-on-Year Retail Growth (January 2017 – January 2018 seasonally adjusted)

Food retailing (2.56%), Clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (0.43%), Cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services (2.75%), Department stores (-0.94%), Other retailing (3.22%), and Household goods retailing (1.38%).

Victoria (3.85%), South Australia (2.52%), Tasmania (2.17%), New South Wales (1.84%), Queensland (1.79%), Australian Capital Territory (0.44%), Western Australia (-0.27%) and Northern Territory (-1.57%).

Total sales (2.09%).

About the Australian Retailers Association:
Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association, representing the country’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As Australia’s leading retail peak body industry, the ARA is a strong pro-active advocate for Australian retail and works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit or call 1300 368 041.


THE FEDERAL Government is investing about $20 million in a Western Australia project producing lithium concentrate, an essential component in electric vehicles and battery storage.

The government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC)  is investing in the project located about 120km south of Port Hedland in Western Australia. The Pilgangoora open pit lithium mine will produce lithium concentrate that can support a full range of lithium products used in products such as lithium batteries. 

The CEFC’s investment in the project, led by Pilbara Minerals Limited, will help to finance the development of the Pilgangoora project.

A spokesperson said lithium was a vital component used in battery storage, which helps to support Australia’s increasing use of renewable energy.

“Increasing the supply of lithium will help to drive the uptake of clean energy technologies, such as electric cars and battery storage,” the spokesperson said. “This is the Turnbull Government’s first investment in a mining project of its kind in Western Australia and demonstrates our commitment to investing in clean energy technologies.”

Construction of the mine is expected to start in early 2018. The mine will provide direct employment in  the Pilbara region during the construction phase.


THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman has launched an inquiry into access to justice for small business.

Ombudsman Kate Carnell said small business operators were at the wrong end of a power imbalance in dealings with big business and governments. 

“Consumer protections don’t always apply to small businesses, who have limited options in seeking resolution,” Ms Carnell said.

“There are mediation services provided by my office and state Small Business Commissions, but if the dispute can’t be mediated it starts to get expensive.

“The current legal system puts small business in no man’s land.

“The court system is expensive and takes a lot of time. If there are two things that small business operators don’t have it’s time and money.”

Ms Carnell said the Federal Government’s new one-stop shop to deal with banking disputes, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), was a positive step.

But AFCA is an industry-funded scheme and won’t be able to deal with non-financial matters.

“That’s why I’m launching an inquiry into how we can improve access to justice for small business in disputes with big business and governments,” Ms Carnell said.

The first phase of the inquiry will examine:

  • The nature and incidence of small business disputes in Australia, identifying patterns and trends;
  • The level of awareness of options available to small businesses, particularly alternative dispute resolution;
  • Actions taken by small businesses when faced with a dispute;
  • Reasons for decisions made throughout the dispute resolution process, and
  • Developments and trends in similar jurisdictions overseas.

“Our starting point is to research the current situation by talking with academics, legal experts and mediation services,” Ms Carnell said.

“Early next year we’ll survey small businesses and any business operator who’s interested will be able to participate.

“I’m particularly interested to learn more about overseas experiences. If there are practical models elsewhere that work we’d like to evaluate them for potential application in Australia.”

Ms Carnell said a discussion paper would be released by the middle of 2018 to summarise the research and propose policy options.

Public comment will be invited on the paper.



THE AUSTRALIAN Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) has called for a bipartisan approach to energy policy to avoid job losses and business closures.

Ombudsman Kate Carnell said the small business sector faces being crippled by rising electricity costs and reduced reliability if the status quo remains.  

Ms Carnell said both sides of politics should endorse the Finkel Report and adopt its recommendations.

"Business as usual is no longer an option. Business as usual is lack of reliable power and exponential price increases," Ms Carnell said.

"If Parliament obfuscates and refuses to get behind Finkel it will cause small business closures and job losses, it's that simple.

"What we've seen up until now is a perception from both sides that there are more political brownie points in shooting down the other side than there is in coming up with a solution.

"The most important issue here is that support from all sides of politics for Finkel gives investment confidence," she said.

"These investments are long term. You don't invest in power for two, three or five years.

"It's for the long term and investors need confidence there's not going to be another change of policy when there's a change of government."

Ms Carnell said the Finkel Report provides a framework that's not technology specific. It doesn't rule in or out any form of generation.

"The report's whole focus is it allows any technology to occur inside certain parameters of emissions," she said.

"It would allow a current coal-fired power station to be upgraded significantly to make it more carbon efficient, but it also gives rewards for low-emissions technology.

"There are no penalties but there are rewards. It's not a carbon tax because no revenue flows to government.

"We understand there are a number of projects ready to go. Without confidence that there won't be policy change the investors are not willing to take the risk, which is totally understandable," Ms Carnell said.

"The major issue right now is investor confidence."


THE highly anticipated tax cut for small businesses will provide "much needed relief for mum-and-dad owners" according to Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell, citing the agency's latest report.

The report highlighted that the amount of tax paid by the small business sector overall has increased, while the contribution made by big business has fallen. 

The ASBFEO’s Small Business Counts statistics report, released on March 29, includes ATO figures showing the small business share of company tax revenue has increased two percent in recent years, while input from the big business sector has fallen three percent. 

“A healthy small business sector is a prerequisite for a growing economy; there’s no doubt small businesses are doing their fair share when it comes to paying tax, not to mention creating job opportunities,” Ms Carnell said.

“The Federal Government’s foreshadowed company tax cuts for businesses with a turnover of up to $10 million will give 99 per cent of Australian businesses a tax reduction, and will provide a much needed shot in the arm for the sector’s growth prospects, enhancing the ability of small businesses to employ,” she said.

Compiled over the past 12 months, the ASBFEO statistics report brings together data and analysis from a range of sources including the ATO, ABS and Austrade, and has been released to mark the office’s one year anniversary.

“This report provides a unique insight into the sector; it ultimately reinforces the size and importance of the small businesses to the Australian economy, and outlines its growing diversity,” Ms Carnell said.

Among the report’s findings, Ms Carnell said the number of small businesses currently venturing into offshore markets is on the rise. 

“Encouragingly, ABS data shows more and more small businesses are entering export markets, with 44 per cent of goods-exporting firms classified as small business,” Ms Carnell said.

“Many are also entering the global market place at an early stage of their development, giving rise to the ‘born-global’ phenomenon,” she said.

Ms Carnell said while many small businesses are at the cutting edge of innovation, she’d like to see more small businesses go down this path.

“Our report highlights ABS data showing small business accounts for 17 per cent of business expenditure on R&D; while this is encouraging, it’s a figure I think the sector can – and will – build upon, particularly as more small businesses realise the benefits of entering into strategic partnerships with larger companies, especially in industries like defence,” Ms Carnell said.

Ms Carnell said the purpose of the report is to be a resource for governments, public policy makers and researchers that will improve their knowledge and understanding of the Australian small business sector.

“We’re inviting feedback on the report and welcome comment from small business and others on how we can ensure this document is the go-to publication for small business stats in Australia,” Ms Carnell said.

The full report can be found on the ASBFEO website: where a feedback form is also available.


  • Over nine in 10 Australian businesses are small businesses;
  • Small businesses account for over 33 percent of Australia’s GDP;
  • Small businesses employ over 40 percent of Australia’s workforce;
  • Small businesses pay around 12 percent of total company tax revenue;
  • 30 percent of small businesses engage in product innovation;
  • Small businesses account for 17 percent of business expenditure on R&D;
  • 44 percent of goods-exporting firms are small businesses;
  • 34 percent of business managers/owners are women.


ABOUT 300,000 vacant dwellings across Australia will be unaffected by the Federal Budget’s new ‘ghost house’ tax on foreign investors. The tax will "do nothing" to increase housing affordability according to a property researcher from Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

QUT property economist Andrea Blake claimed Australia’s empty housing stock was an overlooked resource in an era of high demand for affordable housing. 

“Some inner city apartment developments have more foreign investors (20 percent) than domestic owner occupiers (19 percent)," Dr Blake said.

“While I welcome a vacant house levy being applied to foreign investors as a mechanism to support other affordable housing initiatives, this new tax will do nothing to help the current issues.

“This levy will affect only applications for foreign investment made after 7.30pm on May 9, 2017, rather than the more than quarter of a million dwellings we have going empty.

"The $5,000 per annum tax is unlikely to deter an overseas investor. The only thing it could do is put more money into the pot for other housing initiatives.

"Another issue could be determining that an apartment is vacant and ensuring compliance," Dr Blake said.

“Foreign investment in inner and near city markets has driven supply and pushed real estate prices up while much-needed rental and housing stock from the market goes empty when we have a severe affordable housing shortage.”

Dr Blake said the impact of foreign investment on property values in the inner Brisbane apartment markets had caused much debate.

 “In markets such as Hamilton and West End we have seen a price drop of up to 30 percent on apartments bought in 2011," she said.

“This is because strong foreign investment has created a two-tier market -- prices for off-the-plan sales are undoubtedly linked to foreign investment and would not be sustainable at the volume or prices for the domestic market alone.

“Consequently the impact has been felt by the second tier of the two-tier market -- domestic buyers.

“The reasons foreign investors buy in Australia are varied. For some purchasers it is part of a future lifestyle plan and so the apartments are left unoccupied, and, in many cases, not even furnished.

“These apartments still deteriorate and bring down the value of the other apartments in the complex, causing owner occupiers and those who do rent out their properties some distress.”


AUSTRALIA has, for the first time, enticed more than eight million international tourists over the last 12 months, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The acceleration of international visitors has been dramatic, with the eight million mark being reached just 18 months after visitor numbers eclipsed seven million annually.

In contrast, it took more than six years for visitor numbers to climb from five million to six million. 

“Since 2013, growth in the tourism industry has supercharged with visitor numbers breaking the six, seven, and now eight million mark,” Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Steven Ciobo said.

“This rapid rise has come on the back of strong Coalition Government support for the tourism industry. The tourism industry is growing three times faster under the Coalition Government than it was under the previous Labor Government.”

Mr Ciobo said the Federal Government’s support for the tourism industry “hasn’t happened by accident”

There have been some key changes to the sector, credited with helping to boost inbound tourism, including a lowering of the value of the Australian dollar in recent years.

Mr Ciobo said one factor hardly remembered was the removal of the former Labor Government’s carbon tax “which slugged the tourism sector over $115 million in its first year alone”.

He said the previous governments cuts to the Tourism Australia budget were reversed into a record $639 million spend on Tourism Australia to promote Australia internationally.

There have also been several practical moves, including increasing the number of markets that have access to online visa lodgement from 72 to more than 200, including China, India and Indonesia.

The Government has also announced a new 10-year multiple entry visitor visa to encourage repeat visitation from China and made visa applications available online in Simplified Chinese – the first time Australia has trialled visa application lodgement in a language other than English.

Perhaps just as importantly, Australia has expanded international aviation capacity, including a tripling of gateway capacity between Australia and China.

“To drive further growth from our largest tourism market the Prime Minister and Chinese President have jointly designated 2017 as the Australia-China Year of Tourism,” Mr Ciobo said.



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