Shop trading hours’ reform about competition, not just red tape

Monday 22 May, 2017

As Parliament readies to debate the Trading (Allowable Hours) Amendment Bill tomorrow, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) says small businesses hope a lifeline is thrown their way by MPs to “keep competition alive”.

With the Bill likely to pass, CCIQ says the last competitive edge legislated for small businesses will be removed, increasing concern about the growing market dominance of the major corporate chains.

CCIQ Senior Policy Advisor Catherine Pham says independent businesses see this Bill as a win for the “big guys” and themselves as the “losers”.

“Businesses have been calling for shop trading hours’ reform for a long time, but this never meant full deregulation or a ‘dialling down’ to this extent,” Ms Pham said.

“The proposals in the Bill have simply made it easier for the existing duopoly, or monopoly if we are talking about the hardware sector, to gain even more market share.

“Most independent and small businesses won’t see in any way how they will benefit from these changes. They believe that they are in fact in a worse-off position.”

Following recent comments by Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations Grace Grace, Ms Pham says the State Government is wrong to justify all aspects of the Bill from purely a red tape perspective.

“The State Government has been pushing for this Bill from a red tape reduction perspective, but reducing red tape is about removing excessive regulation that is considered redundant or bureaucratic,” she said.

“Small businesses who have a competitive edge in an uneven playing field, by way of the current shop trading hour arrangements, certainly did not view shop trading hours as being redundant – it was their lifeline.

“We don’t agree with Minister Grace’s comments, which implied that changes to the state’s trading hours’ arrangement ‘is a 94 per cent reduction in red tape’.”

Ms Pham says businesses, who have few options but to accept defeat on this matter, are now starting to proactively think of ways the government might assist them in regaining a competitive edge against the large chain stores.

“Businesses have told us that there is a lot that can be done by the State Government to assist small businesses, outside of the shop trading hours’ reform,” she said.

“These include amendments to the Liquor Act, which would allow independent retailers to participate in the packaged liquor market, as well as changes to the Retail Shop Leases Act to curb commercially predatory practices by landlords.

“Such changes, in light of the liberalisation of trading hours, could mean running a small business remains viable and the future for these businesses is secure and sustainable.

“This in turn means more job opportunities, more choices for consumers and more money circulating around in the local economy.”

CCIQ urged Members of Parliament to think about small businesses – often referred to by government ministers as the engine room of the state’s economy – when voting on the Bill tomorrow.

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