Home' Scoop : Scoop 55 Autumn 2011 Contents 26 SCOOP Autumn 2011
the internet. As a client recently explained: “Where
is the future in selling hand-held GPS systems
when the public walk into your store, review the
range, take 30 minutes of your time and expertise
and then buy off ebay for 30 per cent less? Even
worse, operating out of his bedroom with a
garag e for storag e, the ebay guy is still making
a better margin than I am.”
For many, it’s a tragic and life-changing
environment. It’s even tougher in regional WA
in industries such as tourism, hospitality, farming
and wineries that rely heavily on unskilled labour.
Tourism operators suffer in towns where much
of the accommodation is contracted to mining
companies. In some, more than 50 per cent of the
businesses are for sale and no one is buying.
It’s not all bad news. The two-tiered economy
will continue to produce winners and losers.
Business and workers tied into the top end of the
market are making more money than ever.
‘Niche’ is the new black in business. The success
factors are personal ser vice and quality control.
Owner-operators are cutting back. Restaurateurs
are down-sizing to r un a single restaurant. Travel
agents are giving up the shopfront and servicing
a smaller market, consultant-style, from home.
Domestic outsourcing is at an all time high.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
Scoop Publishing has more than 1000 clients
across WA. When we feed back to our clients
what we know, the reaction is inevitably the same:
if there is such broad consensus, if the trends are
so obvious, why isn’t the g overnment doing more
to make it better? Indeed, why does it seem to
be going out of its way to make it worse?
Community organisations concur that
problems are worsening across all sectors. At
a time when we need more room to move, the
federal g overnment has tightened immigration,
cut back on 457 visas and reduced flexibility,
exacerbating an already desperate situation. New
awards and penalty rates have impacted heavily.
Local fruit growers who need to pick at night are
leaving fruit to rot on the ground.
Cellar doors and restaurants are finding it
difficult to open on weekends and public holidays.
Unskilled labour and backpackers are left with no
work, and operators are left with no choice but to
pay cash. Meanwhile g overnment compliance, red
“If we want to avoid the creation of
a working poor, we need to reduce
the cost of living and the cost of
tape and over-regulation drive cost and frustration.
The level of small business fatigue and stress is
alarming. The proposed carbon tax will only add
another layer of costly tax and compliance.
The priorities are obvious: if we want to make
WA affordable for all West Australians, if we want
to avoid the creation of a working poor, if we
want to avoid a wholesale collapse of small
business, we need to reduce the cost of living
and the cost of business immediately.
The answers are not so obvious: radical
problems need radical solutions and this is
unlikely in the cur rent political environment.
We don’t even have an intelligent debate yet.
The irony is that in order to protect the
lifestyles of the lowest-income earners in
WA, to make life affordable, we need access
to cheaper labour, at least in those industries
under threat. But this is not easy to do without
impacting on those who need help the most.
And while West Australians are happy to enjoy
the delights of Bali, ser ved up on the back of $10
per-day labour, our ‘not in our backyard’ nature
precludes serious consideration of importing
industry-specific low-cost labour. It has already
been tried and knocked on the head.
Yet while we do nothing, each year thousands
make the trip to Bali and local tourism operators
and their staff suffer. What is important, if for no
other reason than state morale, is that all levels of
government start by acknowledging the WBC and
taking an all-g overnment approach to reducing
the cost of business and the cost of living in WA.
It is a real crisis, people are suffering and action is
required. We will keep you posted! S
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