Lew blames 'inept' Labor for woes
Normally Australia's leading businessmen and captains of industry are a diplomatic lot. They rarely criticise the government, not in public anyway, and shy away from being dragged into the feisty orbit of Canberra.
Not so billionaire and retail mogul Solomon Lew, chairman of fashion business Premier Investments and a former Reserve Bank board member, who on Tuesday launched a stinging spray at the legacy of the outgoing Labor government.
Mr Lew said both the Gillard and Rudd governments were "inept" in their handling of the mining boom and "bumbled" their way through the good times to the great detriment of the nation's $100-billion-plus retail sector.
"The legacy of the former government in its inept handling of the mining boom at the expense of the non-resource sectors continues to impact on retail, given the employment numbers last week, the continued strength of the Australian dollar and the fragility of consumer confidence," Mr Lew said.
Last week it was revealed that Australia's unemployment rate had climbed to a post-global financial crisis high of 5.8 per cent, surprising some economists.
Mr Lew, one of the richest men in Australia through his investments in retail businesses such as Just Jeans, Portmans, Dotti, Smiggle, Breville and Country Road, said Labor's bickering and day-to-day political manoeuvring left the retail sector hanging.
"If you ask me I'd say to you the former government's complete disregard for the non-resource sector of the economy while it sort of bumbled its way though the mining boom is a major contributor to the poor state of the retail sector.
"Even good retailers found it very, very hard, and it almost feels that what the new government needs to concentrate on is [being] medical people - apply what you would call CPR.
"C stands for confidence, P for productivity and R stands being responsible," Mr Lew said.
His strong views were backed up by Premier chief executive and former David Jones boss Mark McInnes, who squarely blamed Labor for 80,000 job losses and for non-investing in the retail sector.
He and Mr Lew again called on the Abbott government to eliminate the $1000 GST-free threshold on online goods bought from overseas. "We are the only Western country that allows that," Mr McInnes said.