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Thursday, 16 May 1985
Page: 2037

Senator HARRADINE(10.31) —I have a fair bit of experience in the field of shop trading legislation by reason of my office holding as a member of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association over a large number of years. I note a statement made by Senator Vigor which, I think, should be corrected. He mentioned in passing that the SDA had made a donation to the Australian Labor Party. I think that is irrelevant to this matter by reason of the fact that the SDA has had disputes with governments of all political persuasions on the very vexed issue of shop trading hours. It appears that what is happening here is nothing less than a veiled attack on the concept of shop trading legislation or, in this case, ordinances. If we have a policy for legislation to regulate shop trading hours we require, as is the case with other legislation, adequate penalties to ensure the enforcement of the law, especially in this case. In this case the incentives for persons to breach the law are very real indeed; they are financial incentives. If a retailer can breach the law, and thus take advantage of his situation in the commercial market, he will do so at great profit to him and to the disadvantage of those traders who are observing the law.

Any parliament that takes seriously the legislation before it must ensure that it is obeyed and observed. I understand, of course, that that is a matter for the Executive arm of government but it is important for the legislative arm to ensure there are penalties in the legislation which would dissuade those who might be tempted, for profit motives in this case, to breach the law. The proposal to disallow the Trading Hours (Amendment) Ordinance 1984 is not supported by an objective test; that is, the test which is required in this case by legislators to ensure that the law is observed. We should provide a penalty which would dissuade anyone who may be tempted, through profit motives, to breach the law.

At present the penalty for breaching the law is simply a pittance; it is only two hundred bucks. That is petty cash to the likes of major retailers.

Senator Robert Ray —They put $2m into an election campaign in Victoria.

Senator HARRADINE —Of course. It is petty cash. What is two hundred bucks? It is nothing to major retailers. Let us always remember that it is not always the small traders who are at the forefront of the campaign for open slather trading; by and large it is the major retailers. That certainly has been the experience throughout the length and breadth of Australia and I would assume it would be the experience here because if there is open slather trading, that will lead to a monopoly situation developing. If there is open slather trading, it means we will have the law of the jungle; the survival of the fittest. The fittest in the retail trade are, of course, the giant retailers. They are the fittest and they will soon send to the wall the small retailers, to whom the Australian Democrats give lip service. I point out to the Democrats that there has been, certainly in my State, a major campaign by small retailers to prevent the extension of trading hours because they know that the ultimate result of that is that they will be sent to the wall by the major retailers.

Let us look at what will occur with employment. A number of surveys have been conducted and all of these surveys that I have seen-and I think I have seen most, if not all of them-have shown that the result of open slather trading is a decline in full time job opportunities in the retail trade and the extension of the casualisation of the industry, including the recruitment and employment of school kids. This should be another matter of concern to this chamber when considering a proposal like this. By voting for the disallowance are we really promoting a situation where the current law can be ignored with impunity? Two hundred bucks is what I would call impunity. It is nothing to these people. I believe that we should very carefully consider this and be very sure of what we do.

I believe that if we vote for the disallowance we will leave in place an Ordinance which has inadequate protection for those people who want to observe the law and we will give undue preference to those majors who seek to breach the law, a breach for which they will not, by our decision, receive any reasonable penalty.