Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) today questioned the campaign by major retailers to thwart the rise in overseas e-commerce.

Major retailers today published an open letter calling on the Government to lower the GST-free threshold on imported items, in a bid to slow the growth of online sales.

"We think this move would hurt Australian internet users and consumers," said EFA Chair Colin Jacobs. "Until a solid case is made that the economic benefits would outweigh the advantages in choice, price and convenience to shoppers, we don't think the status quo should be changed."

"The rise in online commerce has significant benefits for Australians, and will only become more important, " added Jacobs. "With the NBN on the way, any changes targeted specifically at hindering online shopping should only occur after a lot more study and consultation."

- Ends -

Below is:

- Background information
- Contact details for media


* Open letter by retailers
- Download here

* Electronic Frontiers Australia
- http://www.efa.org.au/

About EFA:

Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. (EFA) is a non-profit national organisation representing Internet users concerned with on-line rights and freedoms. EFA was established in 1994, is independent of government and commerce, and is funded by membership subscriptions and donations from individuals and organisations with an altruistic interest in promoting online civil liberties.

Media Contacts:

Mr Colin Jacobs
EFA Chair
Phone: 0402 631 955
Email: [email protected]

Mr Stephen Collins
EFA Spokesperson
Phone: 0410 680 722
Email: [email protected]


  1. Interesting that booksellers Angus & Robertson and Border support this. I can buy Australian-published books of no interest to non-Australians for less, with delivery, from overseas than I can buy walking into my local book store. Often as much as half the price and nearly always much more than 10% less.

    Comment by shermozle on 4 January 2011 at 10:38
  2. Right, and what about all the stuff that is simply unavailable from an Australian retailer? I'm sure a significant portion of overseas purchases fall into that category.

    Comment by efa_oz on 4 January 2011 at 10:40
  3. @efa_oz: Overseas sellers will still stock items and sell to Australia (we are a very small market). Just somewhere along the line GST will have to be paid. At the moment we effectively have a negative import tarrif set up, which is incredibly bad for local retailers, distributors, manufacturers etc...

    Comment by simonjtyler on 4 January 2011 at 11:59
  4. If a business is not viable, why should the government intervene?

    If I start a business that fails because it has no customers, is that my problem or the government's problem? Should the government penalise successful businesses so that my unsuccessful business can keep operating?

    Comment by coolguy4 on 4 January 2011 at 12:33
  5. I'd be very happy for GST to apply to overseas goods... if the current parallel import restrictions on people importing books are removed, etc.

    There is an issue of consistency here. Applying GST everywhere (local and OS) doesn't change the balance between local and OS companies. Currently OS companies have an advantage because they don't have to pay GST, and I can see why it might be good to close that loophole. I'm not pro protectionism, but it really makes no sense to have reverse-protectionism. However, if you're going to closet that loophole, then you should be consistent and remove some of the extra protection given to local companies - in the case of books that means removing the parallel import restrictions.

    It might not be hard to implement either - add a GST surcharge on any overseas credit card transaction where the card isn't present, unless there is a prior dispensation.

    The real issue is getting rid of the parallel import restrictions.

    Comment by Will on 4 January 2011 at 15:23
    • Poor choice of introduction, Will, as appears in your first paragraph..

      No sane and reasonable person would wish the extension of a further grab for money by government. Humans, worryingly, do seem to enjoy cutting their own throats.

      Why is it that your species would so desperately want to cling to an outmoded system as a monetary-based societal construct? Sheer madness and outright plain stupidity, if you ask me. Learn, humans, to extricate yourselves from your mental constructs.

      Comment by Cyber Trekker on 4 January 2011 at 15:55
  6. What taxes apply on items over $1,000? My understanding is it's not just GST, but some other arcane import duties that differ by type of goods.

    Applying GST to online purchases would level the playing field, but all the other hidden taxes, duties, imposts, levies, and parallel import restrictions must be removed as well.

    Comment by Mikel on 4 January 2011 at 16:09
  7. [1] I didn't vote for the GST to begin with, unfortunately I did vote for the lying backstabbers the Democrats. I have always thought it was a bad tax system.

    [2] Not all Internet sales are overseas, many Australian companies are doing well on the Internet, and I believe they do pay GST. eg Kogan, Dealsdirect, Crazysales etc.

    [3] Although GST may be avoided on overseas purchases, shipping and handling can not, and at times I have made purchases where the cost of shipping and handling exceeded the cost of the purchase because the total cost to me was still less than I would have paid at a local store. GST is unlikely to fix such problems.

    It seems to me that a lot of these people calling for more GST were too dopey to see the problems it's introduction was likely to cause (unlike the majority of Australians who voted against it, which was why Meg Lees got the opportunity to prove herself a quisling) and want to confirm their dopey status by calling for the use of the mechanism which has failed them in order to fix the very problem that mechanism has caused.

    Comment by Womp on 4 January 2011 at 16:55
  8. A better way to 'level the playing field' would be to allow Australian-based online retailers to sell GST-free products up to the same threshold value as applies to overseas retailers.

    But this isn't really about establishing a level playing field, it's about reducing competition and protecting fat margins.

    Comment by Simon on 5 January 2011 at 16:16