I just can’t buy Perth’s shop hours regulations

The West Australian, September 28, 2016, Sophie Morris:

For someone from over east who moves to Perth there are many things that are, for want of a better word, unusual.

Don’t get me wrong: there is a lot about this city that’s charming. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bucked the trend and moved here while thousands head in the other direction.

But one of the most puzzling peculiarities is the restriction on shopping hours, resulting in an unholy crush of people and trolleys clogging supermarkets during the limited hours they are open at the weekend.

For a city that has in the past decade opened itself up to the world, the enduring restrictions on shopping hours are a bizarre and frustrating anomaly.

Unfortunately, it’s not going to change any time soon.

Last week, the two major parties quietly struck a “behind the Chair” deal on the sidelines of Parliament that kills off any chance of reform.

For Commerce Minister Michael Mischin, it was a burst of pragmatism to rescue some uncontroversial elements of the Government’s Retail Trading Hours Amendment Bill, relating to filling stations, pop-up stalls and Rottnest Island.

Otherwise, the whole Bill would have been shunted to a committee, ensuring it would never pass hi this Parliament.

For Labor, it was a tactical victory that the Liberal Party was forced to split its own Bill and effectively concede defeat on the Premier’s ambition to further extend shopping hours.

To a recent arrival from the Eastern States, it seems incredible that proposals as modest as those pursued by the Government have proved unachievable for a Liberal premier.

The shelved changes would have extended general retail trading hours by just one hour on weekdays, allowing shops to open from 7am, and by two hours on Saturdays, so they could stay open until 6pm.

I It’s a long way from the more consumer-friendly open-slather approach in some of the Eastern States. Or from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s preference that all restrictions be lifted except for some trading limits on Christmas, Good Friday and Anzac Day.

Still, it might have at least thinned the trolley traffic a bit on Saturdays and allowed more time to grab the groceries before dinner.

But even the Government’s incremental changes were thwarted by the numbers in the Legislative Council, including opposition from the Nationals.

It’s ironic that the Nationals represent regions exempt from trading hours restrictions, but don’t want them lifted in the city. The party argues farmers suffer if the “duopoly” of Coles and Woolworths can grow their market share. Never mind the injection of competition since Aldi arrived, with plans for 70 WA stores.

As for Labor, it is still captive to the claims of the shop stewards’ union that retail workers will get a raw deal if they need to start earlier or finish later. Never mind how workers cope in a range of exempted shops, including the “small retail” outlets, which can have up to 25 staff plus apprentices rostered on at any one time. Not so very small.

To be fair, Colin Barnett has made some headway, despite fierce opposition from independent grocers. From 2010, major retailers were allowed to open until 9 on week nights, rather than having to close at 6pm. And when Mark McGowan took over as Labor leader in 2012, he thumbed his nose at the shoppies’ union, overturning the party’s opposition to some Sunday trading.

But the piecemeal changes have resulted in a complex and contradictory array of rules.

Even the shadow minister for commerce Kate Doust is , perplexed that, in its current legislation, the Government has not attempted to do away with ridiculous regulations limiting the goods that can be sold by hardware stores.

In an echo of the days when dads worked and mums bought the groceries, hardware and home improvement shops are exempt from trading hours restrictions, but only if they don’t stock certain items.

These regulations are outdated, as are the other trading hours restrictions.

While I’m outing myself as an easterner who is frustrated by some of WA’s idiosyncracies, can I just observe that daylight saving starts in much of the east on the weekend? We will be three whole hours behind.