THE Liberal Party has launched a campaign aimed at wooing votes from the small business sector ahead of the next State election.
At ‘The Liberal Plan, a Fair Go for Business’ launch last week, made at the inaugural function of the Independents Action Group, deputy Liberal leader and small business spokesman Dan Sullivan said the Opposition was committed to ensuring a competitive marketplace in Western Australia.
Mr Sullivan said a future Liberal State government would consider re-regulating retail hours in regional centres, and some sectors that have already been de-regulated, and capping the market share of major players.
Coles’ and Woolworths’ market share equates to 8 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic production value. Nationally the two retail companies hold 76.4 per cent of the market.
In Tasmania, which was deregulated at the start of 2003, the two major retailers now hold 90 per cent of the market share, an increase of 10 per cent during the past year. In comparison, Coles and Woolworths hold 61.4 per cent of the market share in WA.
Mr Sullivan said such market domination was unheard of in other Western countries and that the Trade Practices Act had not provided the required competition protection.
“Market domination is considered on a national level, whereas it should be considered on a State-wide level,” he said.
Mr Sullivan reinforced the message during his address to the meeting that this new direction for small business was a genuine Liberal policy.
“We’re dinkum; this is not a glib line in a policy paper,” he said.
In answer to the growing concern at major retailers’ moves to dominate the food, liquor and petrol industries, the Liberal plan aims to formulate new State-based trade practices, anti-monopolies and fair trading legislation.
Mr Sullivan said the legislation would follow the lead of the US, which had the toughest anti-monopoly legislation in the world.
As well as opposing any relaxation of the retail trading hours in Perth, Mr Sullivan said the Liberal Party would implement a freeze on any further de-regulation of retail hours throughout the State.
Several regional centres, which Mr Sullivan chose not to name, have been adversely affected by the introduction of Sunday trading, and these areas would be considered for re-regulation.
The plan includes a move to tailor wage policy to the retail industry by reducing penalty costs associated with trading out of normal hours, and by the implementation of more flexibility and choice for small business.
Mr Sullivan said part of the Liberal plan to support small business would examine the limitations placed on the number of staff small businesses are permitted to have on the shop floor.
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