Monday, May 07, 2018

Retailers may be doing it tough, but you can’t blame consumers for shopping online

Both in England and Australia I have at times found it difficult to get served in shops.  I once had some shoes picked out to buy that cost $200+ but the only shop assistant there just sat on the phone.  Nothing I said or did would dislodge her.  I walked out of BFS Pedorthics with my money still in my pocket. 

I do however have a way of getting served that usually works.  I stand in the middle of the store  and say in a VERY loud voice: "Why am I invisible?".  That gets a pretty quick response usually.  Even in my old age, I do have a Stentorian voice when I choose -- and enough extraversion to use it

Stentorian speech is not aggressive speech. It is not a shout or a scream or a screech.  Stentor was simply LOUD.  Australia actually has a modern Stentor in the person of Michael Darby. Michael rarely uses public address systems. He uses his built-in one. It is a wonder to hear.

Bosses with underperforming shops should mount a close investigation of how their staff are treating their customers.  If they found out, a lot would be horrified, I think.  There are a lot of snooty servers who give the customers the feeling that they are doing the customers a favour by serving them

If you’ve recently been into a Myer outlet and tried to buy something, then you would not have been surprised to read some of its stores are closing.

Australian retailers are having a terrible time, apparently. Conditions are tough and the outlook is grim. In fact, things are so bad that it sounds to me as if the average retailer is almost in as much despair as the average retail consumer.

If you’ve recently been into a Myer outlet and tried to buy something, then you would not have been surprised to read some of its stores are closing. Perhaps you too have played the catch-a-shop-assistant game with Myer’s staff. You search for ages before finally spotting one, whom you approach tentatively, clutching your item.

You ask politely if you can buy it, but your hopes are dashed. This person doesn’t work for the brand that owns your item, someone else does; she is over there somewhere, but she may not be here today, she may work only on other days; whatever, good luck and toodle-oo. With that she disappears and you are left clutching your item, which you put down before going home to buy it online for 30 per cent less, with free delivery.

Myer is only one of the most recent retail casualties and the government’s silly new tax on retail consumers isn’t going to help anyone. Consumers are fed up with poor service, rubbish retail experiences and high prices, and increasingly prefer to buy goods online, especially from overseas.

In the past financial year, Australians spent about $40 million on low-value items (less than $1000) online, offshore. We pay no GST on low-value items, and we pay no other taxes, duties or charges to bring them into the country. However, this is all about to change.

From July 1, retailers will have one of their long-held wishes realised, with GST applied to items under $1000. This will “level the playing field”, apparently, but you and I know it will do nothing except make things more expensive.

Any overseas retailer who is sending goods worth more than $75,000 a year into Australia must collect the GST and pay it to our government, but it is not clear how enforceable this rule may be.

For example, I regularly buy household items from a small vintage boutique in Rodeo Drive, Los Angeles. It is difficult to imagine that the lovely shop owner with the pout and monster eyelashes might sit down at the end of each quarter, dirty martini in hand, and dutifully fill out her Aus­tralian business activity statement.

In addition to the GST expansion, the Department of Home Affairs is considering whether to slug us all with a new import levy of up to $7. They say this is to cover the cost of screening our items at the border. However, this is just poor management and government gouging, just because they can. Liberal Democratic senator David Leyonhjelm describes the moves succinctly: “Collection of GST on low-value imports will be expensive. It’s stupid policy. The levy idea is even worse.”

Russell Zimmerman of the Australian Retailers Association is a great advocate for the retail sector. He empathises with consumers, but adds: “The cost of doing business is very high in Australia, and this is not just about the high cost of wages. Rent and other costs are very high.”

Indeed, rent is a real issue. Landlords seem unreasonable, even greedy. Prices are exorbitant; a retailer may expect to pay $130,000 a year for a 120sq m shop in an outer suburban shopping centre. Further, the standard retail lease mandates the store has to provide its landlord with its gross sales figures on a reasonably detailed basis every month. These figures must be kept by the retailer for two years in case the landlord wishes to inspect them.

If the landlord suspects the retailer is fudging, they have the right to audit the figures, and if there is a variance of more than a particular percentage, the landlord has the right to impose fines and the retailer must pay the cost of the audit. The average lease for a retail outlet is between five and seven years, as a general rule. Rent increases each year by the consumer price index plus 2 per cent or 2.5 per cent, or 5 per cent compounded year on year. This means that across a five-year period rent rises by about 27 per cent.

Red tape costs a lot of money, too. For example, in Melbourne a large retail outlet opened its flagship store a few years back. For its opening night it wanted to serve refreshments including alcohol. It was required by the local authorities to have a person with a “responsible service of alcohol” ticket. This in itself wasn’t a huge cost but it is indicative of the reach of government, and how almost anything that anyone wants to do is subject to annoying, time-consuming regulation.

In terms of presentation, the Australian retail sector leaves a lot to be desired and this has become more apparent in the past five years. Australians watch many TV shows about renovating, decorating and design. Many of us have beautifully decorated homes now, and we are disinclined to leave our lovely houses to visit cruddy facilities that are visually unappealing. Yet, as Zimmerman points out, when a retailer wants to complete a fit-out, the work must be done after-hours. The cost of paying tradespeople to work nights adds enormously to the cost.


Mathematics teachers disapointed by new education report

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) says today's Government response to this week’s Gonski 2.0 report, Through Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Education Excellence in Australian Schools, must consider the time and resources needed to tackle deepening issues surrounding mathematics education.

A ‘system view’ is needed to understand the maths education ecosystem, including the extent of the damage caused by Australia’s absence of university mathematics prerequisites and out-of-field teaching.

Only 14 per cent of universities require intermediate mathematics for entry into science and students are able to enter almost half Australia’s engineering degrees without a requirement for intermediate or higher mathematics.

“The current lack of university maths prerequisites is sending a worrying value message about the impact and need for mathematics to students, schools and parents,” says AMSI Director, Professor Geoff Prince.

Professor Prince said the report undersold this issue, as well as the difficulty in graduating qualified secondary maths teachers and the extent of out-of-field teaching. The Institute believes that it would take a considerable amount of time to turn around the current lack of interest in teaching amongst mathematics graduates.

At least 26 per cent of Years 7-10 maths classes are taught by an out-of-field teacher, a figure that almost doubles for remote regions. An issue, Professor Prince, warns will not be solved through graduate recruitment alone.

“Insufficient attention has been paid to the professional development of out-of-field teachers, an explicit recommendation put forward by the Institute in its submission to the review panel. It is critical to support student learning with adequate teacher content knowledge, an issue only partially addressed by the report,” he said.

AMSI supports greater transparency around relevant teacher qualifications to provide this much overdue professional development and enhance workforce planning as recommended by the report.

“It is critical we understand the true extent and trends of out-of-field teaching; as the report identifies this is acute and endemic in regional and remote areas with mathematics teaching positions hardest to fill,” said Professor Prince.

Not just about what happens in the classroom, AMSI also continues to call for a national campaign to tackle behavioural and cultural attitudes towards mathematics to strengthen student engagement. The Institute’s Schools program is already a leader in this area through its national Choose Maths project.

“If we want students to stick with mathematics, particularly girls, we need to tackle engagement barriers beyond the classroom. As well as deeper understanding of career pathways, this is essential to challenge community attitudes to mathematics and its value and impact,” says Professor Prince.

Media release from AMSI. Media Contact: Laura Watson,

Government workers who have saved dozens of criminals from deportation will enjoy three-day junket at a luxury beachside resort – and taxpayers will foot the $500,000 bill

Government workers will enjoy a three-day junket on the taxpayers dime. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal has invited 304 members to the Novotel Twin Waters Resort on the Sunshine Coast, according to the Herald Sun.

Between flights, food and beverages and accommodation over May 28, 29 and 30 the expected cost of the weekend is $500,000.

An AAT spokeswoman told the publication: 'following a tender process to meet mandatory requirements and to ensure that the booking represented the best value for money due to the ability to offer a competitive rate compared with metropolitan venues.'

The hotel describes itself as a 'four star beachfront resort property'. It can fit 1,400 people in its 361 suites and sits amongst 36 hectares of bushland.

The AAT has made headlines recently after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton admitted to being 'incredibly frustrated' with the government body.

Speaking to Ben Fordham on 2GB earlier this weeky, Mr Dutton said regular Australians were being 'taken for a ride'. 'I think taxpayers, the Australian public, and most importantly the victims and their families, are being taken for a ride,' he said.

'We're working as hard as we can to kick people out of our country who've done the wrong thing.'

According to The Australian, the ATT overturned the decision of 164 cases of foreign-born criminals that were made by Peter Dutton's delegates.

This includes 17 rapists, eight murderes and 33 drug dealers.


Senate inquiry misunderstands company tax

Company tax is one of the most economically harmful taxes and in global terms Australia is more dependent on company tax than many other comparable countries. Countries around the world, and in our region, have either cut rates or already have substantially lower rates than Australia does

Yet the Senate is inquiring into a commitment by the BCA to increase investment, employment or wages prior to passing a company tax cut.

Both the concept of the commitment, and the resulting system to monitor performance, suggest a misunderstanding of how company tax cuts will affect the economy.

Making tax cuts conditional on these commitments is another form of regulation, based on the notion that it is only government control that can ensure businesses will do ‘the right thing’ and invest more.

Yet the benefits of the company tax do not flow to wage earners on the basis of a commitment by companies to ‘use’ the proceeds to boost wages or hire new staff. It does not require charity or a social contract with business. In no sense are the benefits reliant on a ‘trickle-down’ effect.

It is the self-interested market that will drive increased investment, particularly by foreigners who receive a higher rate of return than they have done previously.

However this is not the only reason a system of measurement for compliance with any such commitment is not a good idea.

Another important reason is that the corporate tax rate is only one factor of many that determine where a company chooses to invest. In observing movements in investment, wages, productivity and employment in the years following a company tax cut, it will be impossible to separate out the effects of the cut. This is especially the case as the cut is phased in over a number of years.

Evidence of wage growth at companies making the commitment would not necessarily be associated with company tax cuts, nor would any increases in investment necessarily be caused by that commitment. Both could be the result of external effects in the economy.

Nor would the counterfactual in any analysis be current levels of investment, wages or employment. By standing still, Australia risks losing investment to other countries. Investment may have declined in Australia in the absence of a cut.

So not only is such a commitment unnecessary, there is no way to know whether the companies involved met their commitment or not. The Senate should instead look at company tax on its merits.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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