Being able to shop wherever you want, whenever you want is a right most people across the country take for granted.
- A parliamentary inquiry into trading regulations in Queensland has completed its consultation phase
- The inquiry committee consulted stakeholders in Mount Isa about Sunday trading restrictions
- A report with recommendations will be issued by early 2022
But for 23 regional towns in Queensland, businesses are still banned from opening on Sundays.
So what would happen if all shops were given the green light to operate seven days a week?
A parliamentary inquiry is at the tail-end of its investigations into the five-year moratorium on trading laws in the state after canvassing views from stakeholders in Brisbane, Cairns, Mossman, Mount Isa and Townsville.
“The trading legislation impacts different locations in different ways, but for outback towns like Mount Isa, the issue of Sunday trading is a major one,” said chair of the Education, Employment and Training Committee Kim Richards.
More ‘liveable’ cities
The idea of an extra day for grocery shopping and coffee catch-ups in the rural city of Mount Isa has some residents hooked.
“It will bring more activation to the CBD areas over the weekends for residents, visitors, and tourists alike, which will result in more commercial and recreational economy into the city,” deputy mayor of Mount Isa City Council Phil Barwick said.
A full trading week would make a rural town like Mount Isa more attractive to tourists, according to president of the Mount Isa Tourism Association Nadia Cowperthwaite.
“Mount Isa is a major destination for tourists travelling around outback Queensland and we have an opportunity to better cater to those who want to come and spend their cash here on a weekend.
“The Saturday shopping experience can also be extremely negative: residents and tourists grapple with crowded car parks and long queues,” Ms Cowperthwaite added.
Deadly blow to small business
But the convenience of a Sunday Woolies shop could have grim consequences for the little guys.
Robert Burrows, owner of independent grocery store Colonial Convenience relies on his seventh day of trade.
“Sunday is our busiest day. If we don’t do well throughout the week, we usually make it up on a Sunday,” he said.
Owner of Brumby’s bakery, Michelle Russell said a seven-day trading week could run her out of business.
“We would suffer major losses,” she said.
Member for Traeger Robbie Katter said that, while he understood the convenience offered by Sunday trade, residents needed to be aware of the detrimental consequences.
“The ban on Sunday for the big retailers provides crucial trading opportunities to small businesses who are otherwise constantly out-competed,”
“Every small, independent business that is choked out by market monopolisation is a nail in the coffin for local jobs, economic development and independent enterprise, he said.”
More than money
Ms Russell and Mr Burrows said the value of small businesses to local communities seemed to be overlooked in the debate.
“We’re more than just money. We’re part of the community,” Ms Burrows said.
“The bakery puts about $2,000 into the pockets of high school kids each month, and that’s just from our Sunday trade.
Mr Burrows employs 40 per cent Indigenous staff.
“We do that not because we have to, but because we want to.
“We’re involved in local community groups and sporting teams; they always come and see me for a little bit of sponsorship here and there, which I’m glad to do,” he said.
Following its final public hearing in Townsville on Monday, Ms Richards said the committee had a lot to consider in preparing its recommendations due to be submitted by January 31, 2022.
“There’s been some very interesting data that’s been put forward, so we’ve got a lot to take away and digest as we prepare our report,” Ms Richards said.
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