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Fight looms over SA trading hour reforms

Open Neon SignThe National Retail Association (NRA) has dismissed suggestions that deregulation of trading hours in South Australia will line the pockets of Australia’s major supermarkets and the expense of small business.

Longstanding tensions over shopping hours have boiled over again following the Marshall government’s announcement that it would deregulate retail trading hours.

A coalition of business owners and union representatives have come together to campaign against the proposed reforms, which would do away with restrictions that prevent retailers from trading outside of 11:00AM – 5:00PM on a Sunday and after 5:00PM on a Saturday in the CBD and Suburbs.

The group, which includes SA business owners and the SDA, has complained that small retailers will be unable to compete with larger chains that have the resources to trade longer hours.

“If deregulation goes ahead, local businesses will be squeezed out of the retail market by interstate supermarket chains and hardworking South Australians will suffer the consequences.” said SDA assistant secretary Josh Peak.

The reforms have the support of several employer groups, including the NRA and Australian Retailers Association (ARA), who have said that concerns about small business don’t stack up.

“These same false, misleading and simplistic arguments… have been quashed time and again because they simply do not stack up when the facts are presented,” said NRA CEO Dominique Lamb.

But trading hour reforms have brought on disagreement with other employer groups like the Master Grocers Association (MGA), which has been campaigning against the forthcoming reforms.

SA Treasurer Rob Lucas said yesterday that reform would deliver freedom of choice to customers, putting an end to the state’s confusing trading hour laws.

“Quite frankly, it’s absurd – in this day and age – that you can buy products online 24-hours a day but you can’t open some supermarket at 9am on a Sunday,” Lucas said

While SA’s trading hour regulations have been criticised as being inconsistent and difficult to understand, others have argued that they have shielded many independent grocers in the state from the same types of competitive pressure experienced in Victoria and NSW.

The SDA has cited McKell Institute data that has previously found no substantial evidence to suggest that deregulation will leave to the creation of jobs or economic growth.

Opponents like MGA CEO Jos de Bruin have said that reforms will actually cost jobs.

“We have to stick to certain rules, when the largest supermarkets aren’t able to open it gives smaller to medium sized supermarkets the opportunity to trade,” he has said.

“Our members have been working to a set of rules, when government makes rules you invest in your business accordingly.”

It is expected the bill will meet resistance in the states upper house, with MP Frank Pangallo declaring he and colleague Connie Bonaros were unlikely to support the changes.

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