Of course, this complaint was never heard when the Australian dollar was weaker.
Shopping center landlords and investors in companies like Harvey Norman and Premier Investments should be worried about this distraction. The retailers have taken their eyes off the ball and are looking around for scapegoats instead of concentrating on the competitiveness of their own business models.
Consumers shop at overseas websites for discounts that are frequently far in excess of the 10 per cent GST wedge. They also shop for brands they find it hard or impossible to get in Australian stores. If the competitiveness of the Australian retail industry is at risk, the reasons can be found in its outsized labor costs, its inefficient distribution system, its shortage of merchandising skillls and its lousy service culture.
This is not to say that the internet should be ignored by the government. On the contrary, the ABS needs to divert resources from activities it doesn't need to be doing into actually measuring internet sales. (The U.S. Census Bureau has been doing this since the late 1990s.) Quantifying sales would be a huge step forward because it would provide a factual basis for real estate investment decisions and government policy making that is currently lacking.