The voices of Queensland small independent retailers have finally been heard with the Palaszczuk government delivering on its promise to grant a five-year moratorium on any further changes to trading-hours laws.
The moratorium on further trading-hours applications to extend the allowable trading hours for non-exempt shops will provide a period of stability and certainty for all parties, and put a temporary end to the ongoing process and costs involved in retail organisations applying to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) for trading-hours orders.
Master Grocers Australia CEO Jos de Bruin says the moratorium will allow small businesses to carry on their businesses with a feeling of greater security, give them time to recoup their losses and invest back into their businesses.
“For years, small businesses have lived in constant fear of trading-hours deregulation,” he said. “The frequent applications to the Queensland Industrial Relations Tribunal for extended trading hours have resulted in massive financial losses for small retailers and the closure of many stores. Some small-store owners have had no choice but to shut their doors, and it was anticipated that there would even be more heartbreak if the big chains were not halted in their relentless pursuit of extending their commercial enterprises.
“At last the government has understood the plight of small businesses and provided a respite from the escalating number of applications by larger retailers in their grab for more trading time.”
Chair of the Queensland IGA Retailer Board Frank Spano says the compromise reached through the amendments reflects the undesirable situation whereby the major supermarket chains have dominance in the grocery, alcohol and fuel markets.
The original bill sought to extend trading hours further for major chain supermarkets in Queensland and, according to Mr Spano, would have further cemented a retail duopoly at the expense of independent grocers.
“Key research commissioned by IGA and presented to parliament concluded that every 10 per cent decline in market share for independent grocers to the major chain supermarkets resulted in an economic loss of $185 million and 860 jobs to Queensland,” he said.
“The independent retail sector’s future remains very bright, and the final compromise reached in parliament represents a small win among one of the most competitive industries within Australia. There is more work to be done to ensure independents can compete fairly as part of the retail landscape.”
Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace says the changes to the Trading (Allowable Hours) Amendment Bill 2017 passed by the state parliament this week addressed a series of longstanding anomalies holding back retail trade.
“Retail-trading-hours reform is long overdue in Queensland – it’s been holding back job creation and economic growth for two decades,” she said.
The key reforms to the Trading (Allowable Hours) Amendment Bill 2017 are:
- Trading hours for large non-exempt shops are 7am to 9pm Monday to Saturday in south-east Queensland.
- Outside the south east, trading hours for non-exempt shops are Monday to Friday 8am to 9pm, Saturday 8am to 6pm, Sunday and most public holidays 9am to 6pm (Townsville Tourist Area retains its current 7am opening time on Monday to Friday).
- Regional towns that do not currently have Sunday and public-holiday trading for non-exempt shops remain that way.
- Trading hours for non-exempt shops on Sunday and most public holidays, other than in the defined tourist areas, will be standardised across Queensland from 9am to 6pm.
- Special tourist areas such as Cairns CBD and Gold Coast Coastal Tourist Area will have access to extended trading hours for non-exempt shops that meet the needs of domestic and international visitors.
- Extended trading hours apply in the period leading up to Christmas for non-exempt shops in all areas of the state, with trading to close from 6pm on Christmas Eve to allow retail workers to go home and be with their families and friends.
- Independent retail shops can employ more staff without being subject to the trading restrictions of non-exempt shops, by increasing the employment threshold from 20 to 30 employees at any one time on the floor, and from 60 to 100 where a number of related shops are operated.
- Protections for retail workers make it an offence for an employer to require an employee to work the extended trading hours unless the employee has freely elected to do so.
A review of the new trading-hours arrangements will be completed before the end of the moratorium period.