25/06/2009 - 00:00

Shops council urges care on retail reform

25/06/2009 - 00:00


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COMMERCE Minister Troy Buswell will introduce legislation into parliament the government says will create a more equitable retail environment.

COMMERCE Minister Troy Buswell will introduce legislation into parliament the government says will create a more equitable retail environment.

The amendments, which were tabled in a review of the Commercial Tenancy Agreements Act in 2002 by (then) small business minister, Clive Brown, will go before parliament in September.

Sixty-one recommendations for reform were published in February 2003.

Mr Buswell said the measures were intended to improve transparency and accountability in the act.

"Retail tenants had to wait until 2006 for Labor to take any action, and even then, only nine of the 61 recommendations were included in legislation that did not commence until May 2007," Mr Buswell said in a statement released last week.

"This government will implement the outstanding legislative amendments, such as requiring landlords to include additional information in disclosure statements and prohibiting landlords from passing on legal fees to tenants."

Shopping Centre Council of Australia executive director Milton Cockburn said the council supported most of the reforms, but was concerned about the effects of retracting exemptions for stores with more than 1,000 square metres of retail floor area.

Currently, retailers with a floor space of less than 1,000sqm are protected by the act, while stores with a larger floor space are not.

"Most of the recommendations came out of a fairly thorough review; all parties were given the opportunity to make submissions to that review and we're not opposed to most of the measures that the review recommended," Mr Cockburn said.

"[But] as a result of the recommendation to repeal that 1,000 square metre threshold, it basically will now cause all sorts of anomalies.

"For example, Myer will, going forward, now be covered by retail tenancy legislation because it's not a public company, while David Jones won't be covered by it, because it's a public company.

"To give Myer the protection of retail tenancy legislation is going to impose significant administrative costs upon landlords.

"I don't think you'd find a single landlord that would argue that Myer needs the protection of retail tenancy legislation, which was introduced to protect small retail tenants who are perceived to have less bargaining power than their landlords.

Mr Buswell said the amendments would bring WA into line with retail tenancy in other states and territories, but Mr Cockburn thought otherwise.

"The productivity commission, in its report last year, recommended that there be no further amendments of state retail tenancy legislation, with the view of trying to bring greater harmonisation of legislation between the states and territories," Mr Cockburn said.

"It's probably a pity it's proceeding, because it will exacerbate, rather than assist, the move towards harmonisation of retail tenancy legislation."


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