back to article NBN will turn retail borderless, says Conroy

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has urged Australian retailers to “get over” their online retailing issues, and embrace the government’s NBN (National Broadband Network) as their next great opportunity or risk Australia losing its international competitiveness in the global economy. His transformation from network …


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  1. Mark 65 Silver badge


    Has Conroy not noticed that retail doesn't rely on uber-fast broadband to succeed? It's about retailers selling what people want for prices they want to pay and the connection speed doesn't have to be that great for it to happen. The actual problem is the lack of web presence that he notes - advertising the NBN as a cure-all is typical BS. Even large companies like Harvey Norman never used to list anything on their websites until recently but, like many others still do, instead had a link to "the latest catalogue". How quaint in 2011. In the UK you've been able to order online from large businesses (at your convenience) for years. Retailers here need to learn that the rip the customer off thieving bastard business model has gone.

    PS Australia cannot lose it's international competitiveness because it would first need to get some as witnessed by the fact I can buy goods from the US or Europe, get them shipped, pay any taxes and still have change to spare (and plenty of it) over the local price.

    1. Chux

      Absolutely spot on!

      This was never more evident than it was with books.

      I could order the book from overseas, have it shipped and be reading it for not only 1/2 the price of the buying in a shop in Oz, but if they didn't have the book in stock it would take them longer to get it in than for me to have it shipped to my house. Just not competitive!

      We still get gouged with a whole range of things, regardless of GST. This is particularly true when it comes to cars!

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge


        Ah cars, that old favourite. You'll be pleased to know that I looked into the pricing of a BMW M5 (can't afford one, just a good example of an import).

        UK driveaway was GBP60k (less than $120k at the time).

        AU base was (IIRC) $180k. Luxury car tax added about $40k. Then a few other bits and you had about $225k driveaway.

        From above you could basically buy it, ship it, and pay your dues and save a fortune.

        Cars, as you indicate, are one of the worst areas. No competition, no worries.

  2. addinall

    More Rubbish

    Australian business being on-line or not has 3/4 of FA to do with an NBN or lack of one. When organisations go on line they hire web designers to craft the site, use a CMS to update the copy and use a hosting company to house the thing. Or does ConBoy think that every small businessman(woman) in the country is going to start learning how to build and operate a LAMP server, brush up on *NIX skills, DNS (BIND), SQUID. Learn some PHP and Javascript, CSS and FLASH? Put it all together and run the Web presence from out the back of the toilet in the Bicycle store? What a bloody idiot.

    $50 BILLION being spent around a fabric of lies. The BAKSHEESH in this project must be epic.

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge


      Perhaps it's time for a brown envelope icon?

    2. Chux

      You have missed the point

      Australia ONLY has a telecommunications network at all today because the government funded the original one. Outside of the major metro areas there is very little offering except for Telstra, and that is because private enterprise sees no ROI out there.

      The NBN is the next generation communication network for Australia, it is an asset for Australia, regardless of how ignorant Conroy is. I fully support the government putting in this next generation infrastructure, I just hope that it has the common sense to keep it in government ownership and ensure that contractors employed to deploy it are held to fixed-price contracts with penalties for failure to deliver.

  3. David Hicks

    Since moving here I have noticed that the online presence...

    ... of the average business in Aus is not wuite up to what I expected, coming from the UK.

    You get used to it pretty quick though, and I quite like actually going to the shops now. it would be nice if the price of stuff came down though. It seems that nearly every imported good is ridiculously pricey because some distributor has an exclusive deal and can't be worked around, or the law protects 'official' import channels and makes all others illegal. This seems to apply to everything from books to computer equipment and is justified under some misguided notion that it protects Australian businesses.

    When something can be ordered online and shipped to you for 50% of the price in the shops here, something isn't right, and it sure as hell doesn't put Australian business at an adantage.

  4. Tac Eht Xilef

    It's very simple

    All that needs to be done is read between the lines. We've recently had Gerry Harvey and a few big retailers crying over loss of sales to on-line (read: foreign, un-Australian, import-duty-and-GST-avoiding) retailers; 2 major bookstore chains have just folded, claiming on-line sales destroyed them; several other notable local retailers of fungible goods are on the verge of following them; and the Government is concerned with (now small, but set to rapidly increase) lost revenue from GST and import duties.

    This, and a few other recent statements by Conroy and the Government, are basically setting the ground for their forthcoming 'review' into the effects of on-line retail in Australia. We've seen others playing 'bad cop'; this is Conroy and the Government playing 'good cop'.

    I look forward to the actual review - of course, the result will be "nope, nothing to see here - but, y'know, we need to tweak a few things around the GST and duty-free threshold just to make things a bit fairer for everyone, including consumers _and_ retailers".

    Cynical? Moi?


  5. Goat Jam

    Conroy is indeed a Luddite

    But he is in good company down here. Australia is a nation of luddites, and it is nowhere more obvious than in the ranks of business.

    As noted, major retailers here often have a very basic web presence, they usually have no online store, no way to look at the products they sell and at best will provide you with a PDF of their latest Sale catalog.

    Smaller businesses are even worse of course, most of them have maybe a Facebook page (if you are lucky) and a hotmail address painted on the side of their van if they are one of the really tech savvy ones.

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge

      It gets better

      I've noticed how, even if they have a web presence, both the website and the catalogue use internal item codes rather than manufacturer model numbers so it makes it difficult to compare across stores. Pathetic really, and a damning indictment of how uncompetitive retail is.

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