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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 728

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (17:33): When it comes to red tape and bureaucracy there are few who could beat the Taliban. Let us go back to the late 1990s, when the Taliban overran the war ravaged Afghan capital of Kabul. The Taliban's ministry for the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice issued decrees on how small retailers should conduct their affairs. To keep their governing bureaucracy busy, the Taliban published a list of 17 misbehaviours that people and retailers had to avoid and the punishment that could result. I have a copy of that list, which has been translated from Dari to English. I will go through a few of the decrees. The second decree was to prevent music. It said:

In shops … cassettes and music are prohibited. This matter should be monitored within five days. If any music cassette is found in the shop, the shopkeeper should be imprisoned and the shop locked. If five people guarantee the shop should be opened the criminal released later.

Rule No. 4 was to prevent the keeping of pigeons. It provided:

Within ten days this hobby should stop. After ten days this should be monitored and the pigeons and any other playing birds should be killed.

Rule No. 5 was to prevent kite flying. It said:

The kite shops in the city should be abolished.

Rule No. 6:

In vehicles, shops, hotels, room and any other place pictures/portraits should be abolished.

Rule No. 9 was to prevent British and American hairstyles. It read:

People with long hair should be arrested and taken to the Religious Police department to shave their hair. The criminal has to pay the barber.

Rule No. 15 was to prevent sorcery. It said:

All the related books should be burnt and the magician should be imprisoned until his repentance.

Obviously, that applied to books such as the Harry Potter novels. The Taliban also banned shopkeepers from selling such things as any equipment that reproduces the joy of music, pool tables, chess, masks, nail polish, statues, sewing catalogues and Christmas cards. Even retailers found that for products like shampoo the Taliban customs officials would gouge out the eyes of the picture of the female on the bottle. They would cover her face with black tape.

Luckily, this was short lived, for by 2001 shopkeepers in Kabul awoke from this grotesque dream, and the bureaucratic interference in the running of their businesses, when the Northern Alliance sent the Taliban scurrying south to Kandahar.

While we shake our heads at such bureaucratic interference in the running of small retail businesses and while this seems so far-fetched, this is happening in Australia today. The example I would like to give comes from the electorate that I represent at the Warwick Farm Homemaker Centre. I specifically refer to a court case between Woolworths and the Warehouse Group, trading as Clints Warehouse. The Woolworths corporation, acting as 'the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice' sued their smaller competitor in an attempt to deny them the right to sell a wide range of products.

These were court proceedings that were spread over four years, arguing about what goods a retailer could sell in his shop. There were 16 days of court hearings going all the way to the Court of Appeal. We actually had barristers and lawyers—platoons of them—arguing before a learned panel of three judges of the appeal court of the Supreme Court to determine whether a bulky goods shop could sell such things as—I am not making this up!—children's potties, plastic storage containers, sandpaper and babies' bibs. The list goes on and on.

This was all despite the learned Justices Mason, Santow and Foster of the Court of Appeal stating, at paragraph 49 of their decision:

… the conduct of the appellant's business—

Clint's Warehouse—

provided worthwhile employment in the area and, in itself, enhanced the attractiveness to the buying public of the retail area in which it was situated.

So, jobs did not matter. Competition did not matter. Freedom to trade did not matter. Common sense was all thrown out the window. All this happened because of the bureaucratic red tape that must be obeyed.

Look at some of the comparisons. It was not only retail shops in Kabul that were banned from selling Christmas cards; the same applied to shops in this area. Specifically listed at paragraph 63 of the Court of Appeal's decision it said that things that were banned included 'No. 60, Christmas goods; No. 61, Christmas trees; No. 62, Christmas decorations; No. 63, Christmas cards'.

We have courts in this country—with the red tape and regulations that we have—sending out edicts that retail shops cannot sell Christmas goods, Christmas trees, Christmas decorations or Christmas cards. It was not only the Taliban that banned equipment that reproduces the joy of music. Here in Australia, at paragraph 19(e) in the 2003 decision of Justice Talbot, His Honour noted:

Condition 5 provided as follows:-

The display and sale of the following item classifications is strictly prohibited:

…   …   …

(e) music (including CDs and audio cassettes

These words are almost copied directly, word for word, from the edicts of the Taliban. We have courts here in Australia ordering retail shops that they are banned from selling music. And it goes on, with books: where we have the Taliban, 'books selling things relating to magicians', such as the Harry Potter books, this ban in Australia actually goes further. In his 2004 decision in the same case, at paragraph 2, Justice Talbot noted:

On 12 March 2004 I made the following orders by consent:-

1. On or before 19 March 2004 the first respondent cease selling from its store—

and in that category was listed—

(b) books…

Deputy Speaker, even while we hear that the Taliban allowed the sale of shampoo—as long as the eyes were gouged out and there was black tape over the face—some retailers in Australia are not so lucky. In paragraph 19 of the 2003 decision by Justice Talbot, His Honour noted:

Condition 5 provided as follows:-

The display and sale of the following item classifications is strictly prohibited—

and it goes on to include—

(a) grocery items (including cosmetic and toiletry products…

So here in Australia, we have regulations that stopped a retail shop from selling shampoo. How can a retail shop operate efficiently if we have such bureaucracy? This bureaucracy, this red tape, and these overly prescriptive zoning laws—they harm small business. They cost jobs. They protect the vested interests. They throw up an umbrella of protection which our supermarket duopoly can hide behind and, of course, this has knock-on effects for the entire economy. With the lack of competition, we all pay higher food prices, and it becomes a disincentive for investment in our food-producing sector.

The other day, the Treasurer talked about spreading the opportunity. If we are going to spread the opportunity to small businesses across our nation, we need to remove the regulations—this red tape that ties the hands of our small-retail sector. Of course, this is not just one example. Also in my electorate is the site of the Orange Grove retail establishment. This was a centre which had many shops, and over 400 people were working in the centre. It was on Orange Grove road, located next to another major retailer, a Harvey Norman centre and a Krispy Kreme doughnut outlet, with an Officeworks on the other side—it was ideally located for a retail shop. We had 400 people with jobs in my electorate working and what happened? We had the Carr Labor government come in and close them down. The centre was closed down. All those people were thrown out of their jobs. Those small-business people that had put their livelihoods, and their houses on the line—they all had to close down and go out of business. This is some of the red tape that is currently strangling our nation, that is tying small-business owners' hands, and that we as a government need to get rid of. I am happy to say that the coalition government has made a major commitment to reducing red tape. One thing I hope we can tackle is those zoning laws which are harming small businesses.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Porter ): Order! The time allotted for the grievance debate having expired, the debate is interrupted. In accordance with standing order 192B(b), the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 17:44