Liberals tackle hours

THE Opposition has made a major move to win back the hearts and minds of Western Australian small business owners by promising to maintain regulated retail shopping hours.

Deputy Opposition leader Dan Sullivan unveiled the Liberal Party’s retail trading hours position paper this week, the first policy announced by the Opposition, which positions it firmly in the small business corner of the trading hours debate.

The “A Fair Go for Small Business” retail trading hours position paper states that the Liberal Party will oppose any move made by the Gallop Government to deregulate the State’s trading hours.

Mr Sullivan said his party would reverse a Gallop Government decision to deregulate trading hours if it regained power.

Some Liberal insiders suggested the policy is aimed at providing the right conditions for small business to compete when trading hours are inevitably deregulated.

However, Mr Sullivan said the Liberal Party was making a concerted effort to resurrect its relationship with small business and that deregulation was definitely not on the party’s agenda.

“There is no doubt that we lost the support of small business,” he said.

“They have given us a kick in the guts because they thought we were out of touch.

“But what we are doing now is bringing ourselves in touch with small business.”

Announcing its stance on the issue before the State Government, the Liberal Party has gone a step further than merely quashing the issue of trading hours deregulation under current circumstances.

Its position paper states that, if brought to power, it would make moves to further increase the ability for small business to compete.

“The guts of this policy, and this is just the first position paper, is that it is a fair go for small business,” Mr Sullivan said.

He said the Liberal Party would strengthen the State’s competition laws to make up for the inadequacies of the federal Trade Practices Act as well as addressing industrial relations issues. 

“We will formulate State-based trade practices, anti-monopolies and fair trading legislation that will combat market dominance and prevent the abuse of market power,” Mr Sullivan said.

“With respect to IR, the big guys can look after themselves.

“They can go and get AWAs or do a deal with the union but small businesses don’t have the sophistication or the corporate structure with processes to do that.”

Mr Sullivan said that a Liberal government would also make moves to address unconscionable conduct and allow small business to resolve disputes of unfair competition in a quick and inexpensive manner.

He said that the Liberal Party would establish a “Retail Industry Steering Group” that would help guide further retail policies for the government.

Mr Sullivan said the Liberal Party would make it easier for small business to open on a Sunday by extending the current limitations of 10 people on the shop floor at any one time to 20.

“You still won’t be able to have more than six shareholders but for small business to grow and to compete with Coles and Woolworths then you need to let them grow,” he said.

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