16/04/2008 - 22:00

Bunbury split on trade hours

16/04/2008 - 22:00

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Bunbury has become the new battleground in the push for deregulated retail trading hours, with the city council planning change despite the objections of most local shopkeepers.

Bunbury split on trade hours

Bunbury has become the new battleground in the push for deregulated retail trading hours, with the city council planning change despite the objections of most local shopkeepers.

The issue has also highlighted the split between Western Australia’s peak business group, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA, which also favours change, and its counterpart in Bunbury.

Bunbury Mayor David Smith says he will go over the heads of small business retailers to get deregulated trading hours introduced, in a move which could change the playing field for regional towns. 

A knife-edge council vote last week tipped the city’s position on extended trading hours, reflecting the view of a majority of Bunbury residents but not of retailers.

Bunbury Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Allan Birrell said up to 85 per cent of the retail community was opposed to deregulated trading hours.

In contrast, a council survey found 51.2 per cent of residents opposed the current trading arrangements remaining the same.

The city will now go the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection to apply for seven days a week, 52 weeks a year trading.

Under the Retail Trading Act, such applications must show there is demonstrated community support for change.

Mr Smith said the small business community now held a minority position on the issue.

“I’m hoping to persuade [Consumer Protection Minister Sheila McHale] that, given a majority of residents want it, a majority of councillors want it, and a majority of the service industry want it, it is inappropriate for 136 retailers to prevent it from happening,” he said.

But Mr Birrell said Bunbury CCI would fight the city’s attempt and warned it would set a dangerous precedent for other towns in WA.

“It would mean local governments anywhere in the state would be given carte blanche to deregulate trading hours without the support of the retail community,” Mr Birrell told WA Business News.

“There is a clearly defined policy which says that, to be successful, a bid for deregulated trading hours must be supported by a majority of retailers.

“We will make our feelings known very strongly to the minister and the department before the decision is made.”

Mr Birrell also expressed concern about the council’s sudden turnaround from opposing to supporting deregulated trading hours. 

He said Bunbury CCI “disputed” the council “taking a clear position of this”, given the motion was passed by the vote of one councillor, Noel Whittle, who had previously been opposed to deregulated trading hours.

CCIWA chief executive James Pearson lauded the Bunbury council’s decision, saying it paved the way for Bunbury to grow and prosper.

 “It is also pleasing that the erroneous arguments put forward by a small group of local retailers with a vested interest in keeping their competitors closed were ignored,” Mr Pearson said.

Mr Birrell said CCIWA represented large business and multinational com-p-anies, while Bunbury CCI represented the interests of the small business community.

“We have different constituencies,” he said.

Bunbury’s approach may influence other major regional centres, including Albany and Geraldton-Greenough, which currently do not have deregulated trading.

Seven-day trading was narrowly rejected by Albany residents in a 2005 referendum and the issue has not been formally raised by the city since.

City of Geraldton-Greenough Mayor Ian Carpenter said the argument for extended shopping hours had so far been limited to the Christmas period.

He said the city might reconsider its stance if the state government’s push for metropolitan deregulation succeeded.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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