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Election day referendum for SA shopping hours

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The State Government has announced plans to hold a referendum on shop trading laws to coincide with next year’s election.

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The referendum would aim to settle years of bickering about South Australia’s rules around trading hours, which are among the most conservative in Australia.

It will be the first in SA in 30 years and only the tenth in the state’s history.

The government says it will this week introduce to State Parliament a new Referendum (Retail Trading) Bill 2021 seeking Parliament’s approval to put the following question to electors on March 19 next year:

“Do you approve the Retail Trading Bill 2021?”

A majority ‘yes’ vote at the referendum will be binding, resulting in the bill being submitted for the Governor’s assent and becoming law, regardless of which party is elected to form government.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said the referendum was a ‘bold but necessary’ move to ensure South Australians finally had their voices heard on this popular, long-awaited reform.

“Now is the time to let the people decide, once and for all, whether they want the freedom to shop, trade and work when and where they choose without our confusing, outdated laws stopping them,” he said.

“We know that sensible shop trading hours reform has overwhelming public support.”

“In the same way referenda have been held here in the past on a range of issues, from whether the state introduces fair elections, daylight saving, or promote and conduct lotteries to what hour pubs should close, which gave rise to the so-called 6 o’clock swill, South Australians deserve to be able to decide.”

Lucas said urgent reform was also critical to support local businesses struggling to respond to the rapidly changing needs of consumers in a post-COVID world.

“The rise of online shopping, flexible work hours and working-from-home arrangements demand our laws keep-up with the changing times and reflect the modern society in which we live,” he said.

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