Nick Tsoulias is worried online retailers will destroy jobs in Canberra.
''What I believe in is face-to-face business,'' said Mr Tsoulias, whose family owns the Calwell Shopping Centre. ''It is essential that we do have a connection with society.''
Over a cappuccino at the centre yesterday, Mr Tsoulias said bricks-and-mortar retailers employ territory residents and pay taxes to the ACT and federal governments.
''Now those feed back into society,'' he said.
Close to 500 people are employed at his centre and in surrounding shops.
He is worried online retailers from interstate shipping goods into the territory do not create enough local jobs and that overseas online retailers benefit unfairly from the up to $1000 GST exemption.
With an ACT election in six months, the vice-president of the Tuggeranong Community Council, which covers the outer south of Canberra, called on all political parties to explain how they would preserve local jobs and how they would fight the threat from online retail at the national level. ''We are all really worried,'' Mr Tsoulias said.
The Reserve Bank has estimated online retail sales account for between 4-7 per cent of total retailing. Research by the Commonwealth Bank suggests it is at the upper end of those estimates and younger generations are the fastest adopters of online shopping.
An Australian dollar above parity against the greenback is enticing shoppers to overseas websites, although it is estimated the majority of online shopping is still done on Australian-based websites.
There are also concerns about the risk online overseas retailers pose to businesses in smaller towns, such as Cooma.
Martin Hughes, speaking without his Cooma-Monaro Shire councillor hat on, said the federal government must wake up to the threat overseas online retailers posed to local businesses.
The government must put in place a level playing field, Mr Hughes said.
''It is unfair and it is affecting a lot of businesses and it is going to get worse,'' he said. ''If we don't apply some sort of level playing field, which is in the way of taxes, people are going to lose their jobs and small businesses are going to suffer.''
CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian said Generations Y and Z were the biggest enthusiasts of online shopping, based on analysis of sales on CBA credit cards.
''And given that Australia has an ageing population, with the baby boomer era more likely to be saving for retirement, it doesn't bode well for the longer term prospects of domestic retail stores,'' he said.
Mr Tsoulias wants 40,000 additional residents living south of the Tuggeranong Hyperdome to ensure sustainable economic growth by helping retail sales in the area and by boosting construction work.
A tax on imported online goods or a GST rebate for local businesses would help, too.
''An equal tax will support employment and sustainable employment,'' he said.