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Retail Trading Hours Amendment Bill
Extract from Hansard
[COUNCIL — Thursday, 11 August 2011]
Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich; Hon Lynn MacLaren; Hon Max Trenorden; Hon Simon O'Brien
RETAIL TRADING HOURS AMENDMENT BILL 2011
Resumed from 22 June.
HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [2.52 pm]: I wish to speak on the Retail Trading Hours
Amendment Bill 2011, which, I must say, is a tricky bill. In one way it invites support, and quite easy support at
that. Having already extended our trading hours in earlier legislation, there is a risk—but we hope it is not
actually happening—that big businesses are benefiting from those changes to extended hours. In particular, this
bill addresses the businesses that are just slightly below those large businesses—those businesses that have more
than 13 members working on the floor. I think this legislation definitely addresses the problem that IGA is
having in competing in the extended retail trading hours market. The government’s response to those changes,
by trying to address the inequity that has resulted, is to free up the IGAs—among other businesses that may fit in
that category, of course—by raising the staffing cap. At one level that is fairly uncontentious; nobody would
argue that we need more than the duopoly of supermarkets that we currently have, and it mitigates the impact on
smaller businesses and gives them access to the capacity to grow, which is something we also want to encourage.
We want to encourage businesses to go from that middling stage to a big business stage without being subject to
those regulated trading hours that we have just put in place for big businesses. I guess the government would
argue that it is helping small business, but there is another way to look at this proposed change.
We know, as Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich has described, that the bill changes the definition of a small business. It
states that a business with 14, 15, 16, 17 or even 18 people working in a shop at any one time would no longer be
considered a small business. Now, that is the complication of it, is it not? Where do we draw the line of what is
small and what is not small.
Hon Simon O’Brien: Let the statisticians worry about it, rather than lose sleep over it!
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Yes, but I do not think the minister consulted the statisticians on this point.
Hon Simon O’Brien: Certainly not, no.
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: It is an arbitrary line. Historically, that line was always arbitrary and the staffing cap
was previously raised from 10 to 13, at which point the Greens (WA) supported it. I just wanted to draw
attention to how arbitrary that number is and that it is not scientifically derived. In reality—this is a bill that deals
with the reality of the Western Australian trading situation at the moment—we are trying to make it a little bit
fairer for IGA to compete in the deregulated trading hours market we now have. On that basis, the Greens will
also support this move to increase the staffing cap from 13 to 18, but we do want to signal our concerns about
these sorts of moves. It seems clear that this change has been driven by pressure from the IGA chain. The IGA
chain is a network of, as we have discussed, smaller businesses compared with the large supermarkets. I am
comfortable suggesting that the vast majority of IGA stores cannot be seen as small businesses in the true sense,
and they are getting up to that point of being a medium, if not a big, business. But in passing the bill, I want it to
be clearly understood that although the government is reducing the competitive advantages held by large
businesses, and therefore helping smaller businesses—that is, “smaller”, but maybe we could call them mediumsized
businesses—it is not necessarily helping all small business.
Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich interjected.
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: That is the point that Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich made; there is an argument that the bill is
creating three strata of businesses, or at least creating an even more obvious three strata of businesses, by
legislating for it. Once that line is put there, businesses will operate to that line. That is the core of the debate. I
would like to ask the Minister for Commerce how the government is going to address the concerns of now
having three strata of businesses and needing to look after genuinely small businesses. This is a good opportunity
for the government to provide some information about how last year’s reforms have played out in and impacted
on the marketplace. As members know, we were very concerned about the impact on small business; I guess we
would like to know also if IGA has felt the pinch because of the changes that we made. If the Minister for
Commerce would like to enlighten us, I would like to hear about how the changes that have been in place for
several months now have affected small and bigger business.
What plans does the government have to address the risk that this bill will give IGA a competitive advantage
over other local businesses? I have mentioned before that I dearly miss the local deli or local corner shop. Do we
have any way to protect the local corner shop? More generally, has the government been collecting evidence
about the impacts of last year’s reforms? I believe I made it clear before we passed those reforms how important
it would be to chart their impact on the marketplace.
What will happen with these reforms that we are passing today? In the second reading speech the government
quite openly flags its intention to take new shopping hour reform propositions to the next election. It indicates
that at this stage it is likely to involve seeking a mandate to allow all metropolitan shops of all sizes to trade on
Sundays. We might support this particular bill, and although I supported last year’s reforms, I would
correspondingly signal to the government that it is likely the Greens will not support full Sunday trading. The
party, of course, will have that debate when we see the options on the table and we will be ready for that in the
election. But I suspect that the consensus will be that that is a bridge too far. As I said, we have not had that
debate. If we end up with that view, it will not likely be about denying choice, of course, but about protecting
some niche markets for smaller businesses and, importantly, signalling that we are not living in a society of
consumers but of citizens. With those remarks I support the bill before us.