THE WA Independent Grocers Association’s “More Hours Means Less Shops” campaign has netted almost 50,000 consumer signatures to letters opposing the State Government’s proposition to deregulate Western Australia’s retail trading hours.
According to WAIGA president John Cummings the letters, which he hand delivered to Minister for Consumer and Employment Protection John Kobelke this week, prove there is no consumer-driven demand for the extension of retail trading hours.
“In two weeks we had no problems in getting 48,000 signatures and if we wanted to collect more we could,” he said. “What has come out of this is that there is no resistance from consumers to support WA’s current trading laws.”
Mr Cummings said arguments made by larger operators that suggested WA retail trading laws were “backwards” were misguided.
“We have had Sunday trading longer than the Eastern States,” he said. “In Victoria, prior to their deregulation in 1996, if you wanted to buy baby food or toilet paper or basic items on a Sunday, you could only buy those at a convenience store and pay much more for it.
“But under WA law if consumers need to buy items they will find an independent supermarket and it might be a little further away but there will be an independent supermarket that can provide that and at a cost that might be less than the major chains.
“Why aren’t consumers clamouring for deregulation? If nobody could buy these products at proper competitive prices on a Sunday that change would be forced upon us but this is not consumer-driven.
“The expectation is that we will do it because others have done it before. All the State Premiers who deregulated trading hours lost at the next election.”
Mr Cummings said that the State Government was bound by its election commitment to retain retail trading hours.
He said his organisation had not only targeted the Premier and several ministers but every member of the lower and upper house.
“This is a chance for them (the Government) to show just how in tune with small business they are,” he said. “There is absolutely no doubt that Gallop made a commitment to small business in the last election.”
Mr Cummings said talks with other sides of politics had taken place and believed that sections of the Liberal Party, the Greens, and One Nation were in favour of maintaining WA’s retail trading hours.
“The Retail Trading Hours Act was brought in by the Dowding Government to protect small business,” Mr Cummings said.
“Our argument is that WA is a special case for small business. Coles and Woolworths have 60 per cent of the market in WA but in the Eastern States it is close to 80 per cent and in Tasmania it has gotten to 90 per cent. The argument that deregulation provides more choice is on the nose.”
Mr Cummings said that an ineffective Trade Practices Act meant that small businesses were ill-equipped to legally stave off predatory corporate behaviour.
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