Trading hours deregulation polarises opinion in WA

Posted by James Ferre on 13th August 2008

Peak retail industry body the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has hit out at the decision of WA Premier Alan Carpenter to back away from plans to deregulate the state’s trading laws.

The issue of deregulation of trading hours in Western Australia has been on the agenda for years, with a 2005 referendum showing a lack of support for the concept. With the new election campaign, however, the idea has become a major talking point once again as Premier Carpenter backs away from his previous pledge of deregulation. He, like Liberal leader Colin Barnett, is now advocating for modest reform that will lead to an increase in weeknight trading hours.

His change of heart reportedly came because he believed sweeping deregulation reform would be opposed in Parliament.

ARA Executive Director Richard Evans said while the economy is in boom time, the thriving retail precincts in West Australia go dead every Sunday due to ‘draconian’ retail trading laws. “With the resources export market thriving, retail spending in WA is still strong but the trading laws are not reflective of modern community demands for flexibility and ease of access,” he said. “It’s incongruous that in Perth, consumers with cash in hand are denied the ability to shop or have a relaxing stroll through their local shopping mall on a Sunday yet Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin and Hobart are afforded this convenience.”

“We all live in a 24/7 economy with the requirement and expectation of flexible trading hours and convenient access to products and services. In fact, we would like to see a nationalisation of trading hours. In this time of difficult trading – any move from the government to support restrictions and red tape around trading hours is not welcomed by retailers,” he added.

“We call upon the WA Government and the Liberal Opposition to allow WA consumers to enter the modern world and deregulate trading hours,” Mr Evans concluded.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry in WA has made a similar plea, though, the Independent Grocers Association of WA has outlined their concerns that deregulation could put greater pressure on small retailers and ultimately lead to store closures and a decrease in competition.