Easter 2003 BAN cost traders millions
Frank Penhalluriack, who opened his hardware store on Easter Sunday.
Victorian businesses say they lost tens of millions of dollars in revenue because of the Bracks Government's controversial Easter Sunday trading ban.
And in a survey of 300 Victorian businesses, an overwhelming majority said the Government should not be able to tell retailers when to trade.
The Australian Retailers Association survey also found that most businesses believed the Easter Sunday ban was introduced without adequate consultation.
The research comes as Premier Steve Bracks said that he hoped the law would not be broken next year.
Businesses said that, on average, they lost $2500 in revenue over the Easter weekend because of the new trading restrictions.
Brian Donegan, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association (Victoria), said it would be impossible for businesses to recoup the lost revenue.
"As a result of the Government's decision thousands of businesses were shut that would normally be open,"he said. "And we estimate that they lost tens of millions of dollars in revenue over that weekend."
The key findings of the research include:
-92 per cent said that the communication of an exemption rule to the trading ban was inadequate.
-83 per cent said the Easter weekend was more important, or as important, as other weekends in terms of revenue.
-73 per cent said they received negative complaints or comments from customers about Easter weekend closures.
Mr Donegan said the Government rammed through the changes, did not consult with industry and handled the process badly. "It shows that the Government has got it wrong on this issue and that they should not have made any changes to the trading arrangements over Easter,"he said.
Under changes that passed Parliament just before Easter, stores with more than 20 staff were prohibited from opening on Easter Sunday. They faced a $10,000 fine if they defied the ban.
But last Friday, Police Minister Andre Haermeyer said that stores found to be in breach of the law would not be prosecuted. He said police had taken the view that some retailers did not fully understand the law.
Speaking on Radio 3AW yesterday, Mr Bracks said it was appropriate to let traders off with only a warning if they had breached the law. "In the case of a new law which is being introduced . . . a proper education campaign is required, we've done as best as we can to inform the public and shop traders,"Mr Bracks said.
"I think it's reasonable when you're introducing that to give a warning system rather than a complete fine system."
Mitre 10 chief executive Frank Whitford said the trading rules would have cost the hardware industry at least $33 million. "I went out on the Sunday and I went to not only our own stores but to some of our competitors stores, and there were literally people pulling up and you could see the frustration on their faces when they found the stores were closed,"he said.
Hardware operator Frank Penhalluriack, who said he traded on Easter Sunday in breach of the law, said trading hours should be the responsibility of the shopkeeper. But if the State Government was committed to having regulated shop trading hours, it should leave the regulation to local government, he said.
The Opposition's small business spokesman, Bruce Atkinson, said: "This was a backroom deal that stitched up an Easter Sunday holiday and it was not to anybody's benefit, apart from a few people associated with the union."
June 11 2003
By Darren Gray
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