The State Government is pushing shoppers online and strangling WA jobs in the process, reducing usual extended retail trading hours by more than 30 per cent over this year’s Christmas period.
Last year the Government provided an extra 49 hours of retail trading over the Christmas period from 5 December to 1 January, in line with a long standing bi-partisan precedent. Just 34 hours have been approved this year and will begin three days later. An entire working week (Monday to Friday) of additional trading hours has also been withheld – restricted to usual trading hours.
This decision is anti-jobs, is unfriendly for shopping families and ignores the threat of online competition to local retailers. The Government doesn’t tell online shops to turn off its website during the Christmas period so why is it telling retailers to shut their doors?
It’s hard to know what is more concerning – that the Government has made this decision thinking it doesn’t impact on jobs in WA, or that it understands its damaging decision and has proceeded anyway.
Unemployment is at 6.4 per cent in WA, compared to 5.3 per cent nationally. More than 236,000 West Australians are either unemployed or underemployed and would benefit from additional retail trading hours over the Christmas period.
For a Government that was elected on a platform of creating jobs, to then reduce the number of additional jobs created over Christmas by more than 30 per cent is a slap in the face for retail workers.
This decision will drive customers online and away from bricks and mortar shops at a time that they need all the support they can get. Online sales increased from four per cent to five per cent (of total retail sales) in the last 12 months, while total retail sales in WA has remained flat for the last three years.
WA already has the most restrictive retail trading hours in the country, let alone most of the developed world. The only thing this decision achieves is cementing WA’s label of ‘dullsville’ at a time when we need to be boosting our global investment, tourism and liveability appeal.
A 21st century government that isn’t shackled by archaic union views would allow consumers to shop when it’s convenient and would give local businesses the freedom to choose when they open their doors so they can compete with online retailers.
The State Government has made a commendable effort to boost WA’s tourism sector but continuing to have outdated retail trading laws means these efforts will continue to falter.