“This isn’t an anti-trade move by the Australian government,” he said. Countries around the world were “simply facing the same challenges about how to raise this form of revenue in a global economy.”
“It’s been argued that this is like an import tariff, but for years in Australia we’ve had something of a reverse: Local retailers paying a tax that foreign retailers haven’t,” he added.
That view was echoed by Mark Rubbo, the managing director of Readings, a Melbourne bookshop chain.
“I’ve been pushing for this for years,” he said, adding: “Retailers like Amazon and their subsidiary the Book Depository have been able to avoid collecting G.S.T. from Australian customers whereas we are legally bound to collect, so immediately we are at a disadvantage.”
Ms. Wong, the visually impaired Amazon customer, said the company’s main site offered products she just couldn’t get from Australian retailers, including many designed to help visually impaired people like her.
In a statement about the change, Amazon said it regretted “any inconvenience this may cause customers.” It also said that in addition to the 60 million items available on the Australian site, “the global store will allow Australian customers to shop on amazon.com.au for over four million items that were previously only accessible from amazon.com.”
Dr. Minifie, the economist, said that Amazon would probably continue to build a healthy customer base in Australia despite the change.
“Amazon’s huge scale leaves them in a far better position” than other overseas-based retailers, he said. “A lot of smaller online retailers overseas are going to find the new tax an additional layer of complexity.”
“The trade-off here is that the government can make the playing field totally neutral as to whether you are buying overseas or locally, though at some cost to the consumer,” he added.