Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Friday show retail trade is in a serious slump, despite the robust international economic recovery. This data validates warnings that cutting wages, benefits and other income flows to half the citizenry will be disastrous for the economy.

The Australian Retailers Association responded with undisguised alarm. Executive director Russell Zimmerman said the ABS figures are “extremely frightening this close to the biggest trading period of the year”.