Seven-day trading debate

SPARKS are set to fly on Monday night as the Warwick community gathers to discuss the seven-day trading debate.

Five expert panellists will be at a public forum at Kings Theatre, which the Warwick Chamber of Commerce intends to use as part of its decision on where they stand on the issue before it is put in front of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission in October.

For Warwick Baptist Church minister and Warwick Ministers’ Association secretary Jeff Baills, his stance against seven-day trading goes deeper than the obvious religious reasons.

Economically, he said it was a bad idea as the Sunday shifts – for which staff must be paid double time – would likely be filled by casuals, therefore reducing job security.

He also said having Sunday trading would break down families spiritually as he felt it necessary to have a day of rest each week.

“Unless someone stands up in our community and organises in a co-operative way a petition, we’re not going to stop it,” Mr Baills said.

Warwick Workin’ Wear manager Allison Webster is “dead against” seven-day trading and believes having no shops open on Sunday is one of Warwick’s distinguishable features.

“People have been complaining about the degeneration of the family unit (and) seven-day trading is a big part of that. Tourists love to come here for the relaxed atmosphere – if we’re open seven days that feeling is gone.

“It’s not an inevitable thing, we don’t have to have it, there’s no law that says ‘conform to the rat race’.”

The five panellists at the public meeting on Monday night will be GPS Lawyers partner Shane Power, Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce president Geoff McDonald, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland south-west regional manager Barry Byrne, Rose City Shoppingworld centre manager Jason Gard and National Retail Association director of corporate affairs Jed Moore.

Mr Gard said he was “definitely in support” of seven-day trading in the Rose City.

“Seven-day trading is removing the restrictions upon businesses by allowing them to open seven days if they wish, it’s not forcing anyone,” Mr Gard said.

“We don’t want to lose more business to Toowoomba. Presently it’s just a restriction – 80 per cent of Australian stores are open on a Sunday.

“If they remove that restriction each owner of the business can make that decision.”

Warwick Chamber of Commerce president John Randall will chair the meeting and said the Chamber would use the night to help it in deciding a position on seven-day trading.

“There’s a strong degree of concern from the main street people. The Chamber is doing this the democratic way, as in, we’re getting all the sides together, not to have a debate, but to get the information out there,” Mr Randall said.

“This meeting is open to all interested parties but the specific outcome is for any retail traders with any concerns to come along and ask the questions.”

Mr Randall said the Chamber had also been speaking with church and sporting groups in town to determine how the wider community would be affected.

“The Chamber has to get as much input from as many areas as possible because even though we represent the business community we still can’t be deaf,” he said.

This is a position which Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce president Geoff McDonald disagrees with and said any policy about seven-day trading by a Chamber of Commerce should be strictly economic.

Toowoomba started trading on Sundays from May 16.

“Chambers of Commerce are designed for business – that’s what their role is, that’s what they do,” Mr McDonald said.

“Certainly social, religious and family values come in line with business but if we have a debate about that it’s moving away from what we should be debating.”

Mr McDonald said there were mixed feelings in Toowoomba six weeks into seven-day trading.

“Certainly the centres have indicated that it has been a positive move, so much so that some have recorded equal to the first day of trade on May 16 every weekend,” he said.

“There was a feeling it would drop off but it certainly hasn’t, it has maintained that level.

“But we’ve also seen a bit of a trend for a drop-off on the trade for a Monday as a result of that.

“You hear some stories where it hasn’t helped people’s business at all. It’s very mixed right across the board.”

Warwick Cowboys president Greg Carey – whose club often plays in the Toowoomba Rugby League competition on Sundays – said he was sure it would impact not only on players, but supporters and officials if seven-day trading was introduced.

“Certainly it would have some affect on all sports in Warwick which play on a Sunday,” Mr Carey said.

“Some people find it very convenient to shop seven days a week but it has a huge impact on family life and all sports played in the community.

“My personal opinion is that Warwick doesn’t need seven-day trading, there is enough trading six days a week.”

National Retail Association executive director Gary Black said it was imperative to rationalise the trading hours across Queensland.

“The regime is riddled with inconsistencies and there ought to be a sensible rationalisation of the regime,” Mr Black said.

“There needs to be a sensible compromise struck which accommodates the changing consumer and that most retailers want to see a level playing field across the state in terms of trading hours law.”

Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland south-west regional manager Barry Byrne said his role on the panel would be to let people know their commitments regarding time and wages.

“If it’s introduced it’s not going to bring any more new money into the particular town or region,” Mr Byrne said.

“What it will do is probably spread the existing amount of spending across a greater period.

“That will be a greater cost to the employers because they’re going to have another day’s holding costs around their basic utilities charge and if they’re not owner-operated then they’re going to have to employ extra labour and Sunday under the General Retailing Award is double time.”

Mr Byrne said he had noticed employers in Toowoomba employing junior staff as a result of the move to Sunday trading.

“They still pay them double time, but that works out to roughly equal to adult time at ordinary rates,” he said.

However Mr Byrne said he could see some of the positives.

“It allows families to go and do their shopping as a family unit,” he said.

“About four years ago the Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce and a couple of private bodies did a survey on the outflow of the shopping dollar on Sundays to Brisbane and it was an astonishing amount of money when they calculated it.”

He said the public meeting on Monday night was a great idea.

“Any form of consultation with the key stakeholders is imperative,” Mr Byrne said.

“Particularly where there is such a reliable panel set-up I think it’s going to be tremendously beneficial.”

Classic Dimensions owner Robyn Fraser said she would likely not open on Sundays should seven-day trading be introduced to Warwick.

“I am not in favour of it from the point of view of families, we just don’t get enough time and people can’t shop ‘til they drop,” Mrs Fraser said.

“But it’s probably an inevitable lifestyle that we’re going to have to learn to accept. However because I’m privately-owned the decision is mine.

Uniting Church minister Tony Shumack was also resigned to the fact that seven-day trading would likely become a part of the fabric of Warwick at some point in the future.

“I know traditionally churches have not been keen on any sort of work on what they term the Sabbath but that said I personally don’t have a lot of trouble with it, it’s a part of our world these days,” he said.

Have your say

Come and have your say on seven-day trading in the Rose City.

When: Monday from 7pm.

Where: Warwick RSL King’s Theatre.

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