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Thursday, 16 May 1985
Page: 2038

Senator LEWIS(10.45) —Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. Firstly, let me congratulate you on your appointment as a Temporary Chairman of Committees. It is a great pity that honourable senators come into this place and air their prejudices by opening a general debate on shop trading hours at weekends when they really do not know what they are talking about in relation to the Australian Capital Territory Trading Hours (Amendment) Ordinance. Notwithstanding that Senator Harradine believes, apparently, that the only way to control big business is to impose major penalties on big business, the truth of the matter is--

Senator Harradine —I did not say that and you know it.

Senator LEWIS —That was the implication of what the honourable senator was saying. The truth is that, notwithstanding that the penalties for trading out of hours in the Australian Capital Territory are fairly insignificant, so there could be open slather, to use Senator Harradine's words, the major retailers close at 12 noon on Saturday and do not reopen until Monday morning. Food shops, such as Woolworths, are open on Saturday afternoons until 5 o'clock and that is of great convenience to many people who live in the Australian Capital Territory. As is the case in most capital cities nowadays, people who are working in their homes during the weekends are able to shop at hardware stores which are open all weekends. Notwithstanding that the penalties are insignificant, the truth is that the law is obeyed because, believe it or not, some people do obey the law regardless of how large the penalty is. That is the first point I make.

The second point is very simple. The Minister for Territories (Mr Scholes) has endeavoured to put the cart before the horse. The Minister has written a letter, I think to all of us-perhaps he has written only to me-in the following terms:

It is my intention to introduce the amendments--

these are the amendments to the trading hours-

as soon as possible after the agreement of the ACT House of Assembly is obtained.

The first amendment will extend trading on Saturday afternoons until 4.00 p.m. The current legislation restricts trading to 12 noon.

He then talked about proposed amendments to trading hours that he will introduce. I say that he has the cart before the horse. The Minister ought to clarify the Trading Hours Ordinance in the Australian Capital Territory, which is an absolute shambles. Once that is clarified he can bring in a provision-or he may include it in that Ordinance-as to what the penalties ought to be in order to implement those trading hours. So it is wrong and it is nonsense to be imposing substantial increases in penalties at this stage when even the Minister concedes that the Trading Hours Ordinance is a shambles.