Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Lisa Ho Stores
I am extremely saddened to hear today that the administrators of the business of one of Australia's most successful fashion brands—that of the fashion designer Lisa Ho—were unable to find a buyer and will actually close down all Lisa Ho stores around the country, a move that will see 100 loyal staff lose their jobs.
I have never met Lisa Ho, and I have certainly never worn any of her fashion designs, but I would like to express in this House my sadness that the stores carrying her name will join the long list of iconic Australian fashion brands that have been placed into administration or forced to close as the economy stalls under this Labor government.
What the big end of town and the union bosses will never understand is that when a small business dies—a business that the owners have nurtured, that they have watched grow and that they have loved with a passion—part of the owner's identity dies as well. I am sure this is a very difficult and emotional time for Lisa Ho, both professionally and personally. I would like to place on the record, in this Australian federal parliament, that Lisa Ho can, and should, hold her head very high. For this is a business that has had incredible success over almost 30 years in the most difficult and competitive of industries.
Starting from a small market stall in Paddington back in the 1980s, the business has developed on the international stage and, with courage, skill and an entrepreneurial drive, has developed a following of celebrity fans wearing Lisa Ho's gowns on numerous red carpets—celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, Elle Macpherson, Sarah Wynter, Delta Goodrem and Olivia Newton-John. The Sydney 2000 Olympics opening ceremony even included a segment celebrating Lisa Ho's place in Australian fashion. The Lisa Ho business has created wealth for our nation. It has created hundreds of jobs. It has earned export dollars, with its products stocked in more than 250 boutiques worldwide. Lisa Ho has been an ambassador for our industry. It is a truism that in life we learn more from our mistakes and our failures than we do from our successes. So I hope that Lisa Ho dusts herself off, uses that same entrepreneurial spirit that saw her start off in a small market stall, goes out, works on a new business model and keeps going.
However, this parliament needs to consider how, over many years, it has let down small business operators, especially in our Australian retail sector—businesses like Lisa Ho's—and how our policies have placed them at a competitive disadvantage and threatened their existence. Under current policies, if I were to go and spend $2,000 to buy a few of Lisa Ho's latest designs—designs which were made in Australia and sold by an Australian retail store—I would pay $200 in GST, but if I bought a competing outfit from an overseas designer, made in a foreign country and sold by a foreign retailer, and had it posted to me then I would pay zero GST. In a competitive market, this 10 per cent disadvantage can be crippling. Just imagine for a minute if we forced our athletes—our sprinters—to give opposing sprinters from foreign nations a 10-metre head start in a race, or if we forced our soccer players and our rugby teams to go out and compete on the international playing field one man short, or if, in the Australian Open golf tournament, we allowed foreign golfers to play off the ladies' tees. If we did this and placed our sportsmen at a competitive disadvantage, there would be national outrage. But that is exactly what we are doing to Australian fashion designers: forcing them to compete with their hands tied behind their backs. I am sure another reason for the difficulties of Lisa Ho's business was the exorbitant rent that retailers are forced to pay in Australia. This parliament has not given Lisa Ho and small business entrepreneurs like her a fair go, and I hope that the review of our competition policy when we come to government gives them more of a level playing field.