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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (24 August) . . Page.. 2302 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

Consumer consultation - Consumer responses to the BIS Shrapnel Canberra Retail Study, dated June 1999.

ACT Retail Sector - New Directions for Government, dated July 1999.

I move:

That the Assembly takes note of the papers.

Mr Speaker, in tabling the response today to the BIS Shrapnel "New Directions for Government", I want to acknowledge the extensive and comprehensive consultation process that has been undertaken with both consumers and retailers. The outcome of this work has greatly assisted the Government in developing its response. I would also like to acknowledge the importance of retailing to the overall fabric of the city and to the Territory's economy. In particular, the Canberra-Queanbeyan area alone exports about $350m worth of retail and related services a year, and there has been about a 27 per cent job growth in the retail sector over the past decade.

By way of background, the Government resolved to undertake a comprehensive review of the shape and size of the retail structure in the ACT in response to the decision by the former Assembly to place a moratorium on major retail expansion in the town and group centres. It was decided to engage a consultant to conduct the survey and, after a selective tender process was undertaken, BIS Shrapnel was chosen. BIS specialises in economics, property advice, retailing and consumer behaviour at both the local and national level. The BIS proposal was one of three submitted during the tender process.

The key objectives of the study were to examine the structure and hierarchy of the ACT retail industry, with particular reference to the types and mix of retail space that best suit Canberra; consider other possible retail space models that might be relevant to Canberra; and recommend actions to give effect to the study's findings. During the study, BIS worked closely with a reference group comprising property, business, retail and consumer representatives and government officials to discuss and distil the key issues. The consultant also spoke with community groups, individuals and government agencies.

The key findings from the BIS study suggested there should be a relaxation of the rigidity of the existing retail hierarchy in the ACT and the associated planning regime. The study argued that this would allow greater competition, leading to increased levels of investment and ultimately to improvements in retail facilities and amenities for the consumer.

The report also responded to assertions made both inside and outside the Assembly that the ACT had an excess to retail space. BIS argued that the local industry attracts a significant number of consumers from across the Australian capital region. While the per customer figures appear high by national standards, Canberra residents do have higher per capita wages and salaries than anywhere else in Australia, and in any event these figures are greatly reduced when the regional market is taken into account.

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