To reject or embrace? The choice of our community in the age of the free market

By Dylan J. Stone

In a globalized world, battered and bruised by a pandemic and social and economic upheaval, our community arrives at a very important crossroad.

The ‘shop local’ mantra, assisted by isolation from other towns, and the convenience of having a ‘local’ available to sell and service particular products on demand, continues to resonate strongly within our business community.

Notwithstanding, the convenience of online shopping, the increased mobility of essential and retail businesses, and the reopening of our country post-lockdown has enabled consumers to shop online and interstate for products and services.

The collision of the shop-local mantra with the new realities of a free-market economy post-lockdown has created a conflict that is now playing out in the streets and screens of Broken Hill.

Owner of the Broken Hill Kebab House, Muhammed Mehdi, commented that the rising costs of maintaining a local shop-front, such as rent, electricity, and water, must be passed onto consumers.

This makes it difficult to compete on pricing, which is challenging for all local businesses.

The mere fact competition exists isn’t the issue, according to Mr Mehdi, it’s that local businesses cannot fairly compete due to these additional costs.

Alternatively, Ali Kaya from the mobile Kebab King Mildura van, has said they support the local community in a variety of ways, including through the purchase of stock, accommodation, fuel and other necessities, as well as donating directly to various community groups and organisations.

On this basis, the argument that mobile businesses are syphoning money out-of-town is flimsy at best.

Both businesses, despite competing against each other, are here to serve and support our community.

The way our community views the competition between ‘local’ and ‘out-of-towner’ businesses must change.

As a community, we must now recognise that the protectionist rhetoric and ideals which historically have served us well are now obsolete, and we must come to this recognition not in anger or despair, but with optimism of what the future may hold.

There is a clear opportunity for the visiting businesses to contribute positively to our community, and it is incumbent on our community to provide this opportunity.

There is no doubt that the competition between our local businesses and visitor businesses needs to be fair, and much work can be done to ensure a level playing field.

However, we can no longer dismiss those who genuinely aim to contribute their time, energy and resources to our community by bringing their business here.

We are the beneficiaries of a free-market economy, where we reward anyone who has a go.

So, our community must now reject the age-old dichotomy between local businesses and out-of-towners, and instead level the playing field to make it easier for all businesses to compete fairly and ethically, in the best interests of our community.

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