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Parliament leaves shopping hours referendum on shelf

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Parliament has knocked back another Marshall Government push for a referendum on shop trading hours deregulation, as the Treasurer vows to take the issue to the next election.

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The government has been pushing to fulfill a 2018 election pledge to allow retailers to open on all public holidays except Christmas Day, Good Friday and Anzac Day morning, as well as permitting extended opening hours for shops on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.

Treasurer Rob Lucas tabled a Bill on Thursday afternoon to put the deregulation proposal to a public vote – citing “overwhelming” support for the government’s position.

The Bill was defeated 12-7 in the Upper House.

Lucas, who has been granting ministerial exemptions for shops to trade on public holidays, said the State Government would still take the issue to next year’s election.

“We know there’s much more work to be done, which is why we will be campaigning on this popular issue right up until the next State election in March,” he said.

The push comes after Business SA on Thursday withdrew its support for full deregulation of shop trading hours.

The state’s peak business lobby is recommending Saturday evening trade only be extended from 5pm to 6pm, with Sunday morning trade only brought forward from 11am to 9am.

The chamber of commerce said their change of position recognised the need for a “balance” to ensure local independent retailers can remain viable against national and multi-national companies.

Lucas said the government “respectfully disagrees” with Business SA’s position and it would not dissuade the government from pursuing reform.

“With great respect, our policy isn’t designed for Business SA – it’s designed for the overwhelming majority of South Australians who want greater freedom of choice,” he said.

Another State Government Bill delaying a tax on Electric Vehicles until 2027 and offering $3000 subsidies for 6000 EV purchases also faces an uphill battle in the Upper House.

Labor have stated their opposition to the proposal, with opposition environment spokesperson Susan Close saying the party “aren’t going to fall for Lucas’ trick of tying an incentive payment to a tax”.

SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo said the new EV bill appeared to be an improvement on the last one, but the party still held reservations.

“I hope the Treasurer can dig a little deeper into his deep pockets to make the incentives more attractive than what he currently has on the table,” Pangallo said.

“That said, the devil is in the detail and we are yet to see the proposed legislation in its entirety.”

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