Industry calling for full deregulation of trading hours

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 11th August 2008

The issue of trading hour deregulation appears likely to be one of the major talking points of the upcoming WA state election.WA Opposition Leader Colin Barnett made the controversial decision to announce a possible extension to weeknight trading hours if the Liberal Party is elected. The announcement was made on the proviso that talks were held with interested parties before any firm decision was reached. “The issue of retail trading hours has been for many years a contentious issue in Western Australia,” Mr Barnett said, according to WA Today. “The reality is though there have been various steps of deregulation over the last 15 to 20 years.”

“When you deregulate, whatever industry it might be, you should do it carefully, and you should do it in stages, and everyone should know of changes well in advance.”

The issue of trading hours deregulation has long been debated in the West, with a 2005 referendum held to gauge public opinion on the topic. At that stage the notion was strongly opposed.

The State’s peak business organisation, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia, while pleased to see changes flagged, believes partial deregulation will not bring the same benefits that full deregulation could create. “While CCI welcomes Mr Barnett’s preparedness to allow shops to open later on weeknights, the same standards must also apply on Sundays, and for all retailers, so they can better meet the needs of their customers,” CCI Chief Executive James Pearson said in a statement. “CCI is keen to assess the full detail of the Liberal Party’s policy, including the rules that will apply to weeknight trading, and what stores, if any, will be allowed to open on Sundays.”

“CCI’s research shows that WA consumers want extended trading hours and that deregulation in other states has seen better business for retailers and lower prices for customers,” Mr Pearson advised. “In 2008 there is no need for us to be told where and when we can shop. All other States and Territories have reformed their trading hours laws. We should do the same. The current laws are bad for consumers, retailers and the State as they restrict choice, competition and innovation in the retail sector. They hold back small retailers from growing their businesses.”

“CCI also urges the Premier Alan Carpenter to hold firm on his pledge to deregulate the State’s retail trading hours laws for the sake of consumers, retailers and the WA economy,” Mr Pearson added. “CCI is concerned the Premier appears to be softening his previous commitment to reform.”

In contrast, the WA Independent Grocers Association is likely to strongly oppose trading store hours extensions due to fears it may only benefit major retailers and lead to store closures and decreased competition.