West Australian Premier Alan Carpenter says he will legislate for longer shopping hours in Western Australia if he wins the next state election due in early 2009.
Carpenter’s commitment, which would overturn the result of a plebiscite in 2005 which comprehensively rejected shopping hour deregulation in WA, is likely to trigger a fierce battle between small business groups and Labor in the lead up to next election.
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But small business groups, who don’t want Sunday trading, and SMEs are unlikely to receive support in their efforts from the Liberal opposition – WA leader Paul Omodei and deputy Troy Buswell say they won’t seek to block Carpenter’s plan to change the laws.
John Cummings, the President of the National Association of Retail Grocers and an independent retailer in WA, says shopping deregulation is not wanted by the majority of people or business owners in the state.
“The only people who bring up trading hours in WA are the Sunday Times (a local newspaper), the [WA] Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Coles,“ Cummings says. “The people who are not represented in this are small business; 96% of all retail is small businesses and those owners in WA have clearly said they don’t want to know about deregulation.”
Cummings says while business owners are concerned that a change to current shopping hours – most suburban shops aren’t allowed to open after 6pm on Saturday or at all on Sunday – will reduce the time they can spend with friends and family, their fundamental objection to change is an economic one.
“The biggest threat to economic activity in the sector is the market dominance of Coles and Woolies,” Cummings says. “Deregulation or changing hours does not increase economic activity, it just swaps retail sales from small business to large business.”