This Thursday Jodie is headed to parliament house in Canberra as part of a visit organised by PayPal for 3 PayPal merchants to meet with Ministers and shadow Ministers of Government. The goal is to share the story of our business and raise a number of key issues that affect e-commerce businesses.
At this stage we're expecting to meet with:
- Senator Stephen Conroy - Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
- Malcolm Turnbull MP - Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
- Bill Shorten MP - Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation
- Senator Nick Sherry - Minister for Small Business
- Bruce Billson MP - Shadow Minister for Small Business, Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs
Following is an outline of the issues we want to raise. We'd love to get your thoughts on these and any other issues prior to our meetings.
We think online retail presents a fantastic export opportunity for Australia and an opportunity for Australia to develop a strong knowledge based industry so that we're competitive as a country beyond the current resources boom.
In our view the following are key issues for growing the online retail space that the government is in a position to help with:
Delivery Services - Australia Post is government owned and while more competitors are entering the package delivery market in Australia, we'd love to see Australia Post focus on this area more. We have a number of issues with Australia Post's parcel delivery service in Australia and it's forced us to switch from using EMS who contract with Australia Post to DHL for our deliveries worldwide. More background in this blog post.
Education - Education is critical for the future of the technology and online retail industries in Australia. We don't have enough computer science students to really encourage growth and entrepreneurship in these areas. Many budding Australian tech entrepreneurs have great ideas, but don't have the technical skills themselves and can't find a business partner with the technical skills to start innovative businesses. More computer science student places and scholarships are needed. The NBN is a great initiative but to take full advantage of it we will need computer science graduates.
Banking deregulation or incentives for financial institutions to encourage more competition in the merchant payments market. We're fortunate in Australia that we have PayPal in the merchant payments market because without them it would be very difficult for businesses like ours to operate, particularly in exporting our products. It would be great to see the Australian banks innovating in this space but to date their offerings have been nothing other than woeful. Here's some further background on our position on this issue.
GST threshold - While in an ideal world GST and duty would be charged on foreign online retail purchases, the productivity commission report outlining the high costs of implementing this means it's not worthwhile. Consumers and taxpayers shouldn't pay for what would be only a small benefit to Australian retailers. Don't succumb to the pressure from Harvey Norman, Myer and friends, they need to be encouraged to innovate in the online retail space rather than focusing on trying to protect themselves. More of our thoughts here, here and here.
Grants - The Export Market Development Grant is a good one for online retailers selling their products overseas, however the lack of certainty around these payments for exporters poses challenges when making decisions on marketing their products overseas. That said we can appreciate the budgeting challenges this grant creates if a limit on government spending isn't set.
One area open for improvement is that there could be less of an administrative burden to access the grant. A string of companies have sprung up to help businesses through the red tape to apply for the grant. They then take a percentage of the funds the government provides. This isn't ideal, it would be better if the administrative burdens were eased while still ensuring only legitimate businesses can access the funds.
All other grants we've looked into exclude online retailers as their requirements don't fit with our business model. Eg. Commercialisation Australia requires the business to have strong design or patent protections which don't apply to online retailers. It would be great if these other grants could be opened up to online retailers.
Let us know your thoughts on the above issues and anything else you think we should discuss.
Cross posted to Power Retail