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Libs face uphill battle on shop trading reform


SA Best’s fledgling MLCs and their former ally John Darley could hold the key to shop trading reform in South Australia after Labor today committed itself to oppose the Marshall Government’s deregulation plan.

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New Labor leader Peter Malinauskas today held a roundtable with interest groups, including his own shop-workers union, the IGA, and other independent retailers, emerging to announce he would not be for turning on shop trading hours.

“We’ve had the opportunity to hear directly from small and independent retailers about what the implications will be on their business,” Malinauskas said.

“What I’ve heard this morning is a whole set of compelling reasons around why deregulation of shop trading hours here in SA would hurt small businesses and hurt working families… so Labor has resolved to oppose it.”

But there was a caveat – with Labor leaving the door ajar for compromise on Sunday morning trade for major supermarkets, which currently can’t open until 11am.

Malinauskas said he would be “open to compromise… around Sunday morning from 9 to 11am – but that’s it”.

“We’ll be fighting the Government’s legislation to totally deregulate trading hours, particularly around public holidays and Saturday and Sunday nights,” he said.

He drew a political line between Labor’s stand for small business and the Liberal Government, which he declared was “on the side of Westfield, Coles and Woolworths”.

“We know that the Liberal Party’s legislation is going to take away jobs… it will take sales away from independent grocers and put it back in the pockets of the duopoly,” he said.

Labor’s stance could make shop trading deregulation the first major test of the newly-configured Upper House – which is still yet to be finally determined. The most likely scenario would see the Liberals with nine members (but one of those without a vote as the presiding member), Labor with eight and a crossbench of two Greens, two SA Best and Darley.

Labor would need to convince just three crossbenchers to side with it to sink the Liberals’ bill.

Darley told InDaily he was “not interested in total deregulation”, but was open to discussion with Treasurer Rob Lucas about how to proceed.

“I’ll listen to what he’s got to say,” he said.

His main concern is striking an appropriate balance between the CBD and Glenelg precincts and the rest of the metro area.

New SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo told InDaily he would be “talking to all stakeholders – including the Government and Labor – before reaching a final position”, and was meeting with one retail group later today.

“I am hopeful we can come up with a workable solution [but] I want to see what the Government is proposing first,” he said.

“I can see one or two glaring anomalies in the current laws [but] at the same time we want to see what is being proposed and if it could have an adverse impact on small to medium business.”

Pangallo said the “stable door isn’t closed on reform” but he also had “some suggestions of my own I want to put to the Government too”.

If SA Best back deregulation it would be a shift from the position of former leader Nick Xenophon, who signed a pre-election pledge opposing the policy.

The Greens appear likely to oppose any significant changes, with MLC Mark Parnell telling InDaily: “We’re not supporting shop trading hours deregulation but whether there are any other lesser changes we can support is hard to say as we haven’t seen them yet.”

“I’ve told the Treasurer that [we] will genuinely consider any proposals he puts forward, but he has an uphill battle to convince us to support anything resembling deregulation,” he said.

A Government spokesman said in a statement that “South Australians want genuine shop trading hour reform and that’s exactly what the Marshall Liberal Government plans to deliver”.

“Peter Malinauskas needs to start listening to what the majority of South Australians want, not just his shoppies union mates,” the spokesman said.

Even Malinauskas’s floated compromise didn’t go down with with the IGA, though. Joseph Romeo from the Romeo Retail Group said the IGA group would “totally oppose any trading hours change” because it would mean “less competition and less jobs”.

“My position, representing my network of people, is that we totally oppose Sunday morning [trading],” he said.

Asked whether a compromise on Sunday morning trading was a politically expedient move, he said: “I’m not here about politics – I’m here for the IGA.”

There was better news for the Liberal Government overnight with Malinauskas declaring Labor would support the elimination of payroll tax for companies with wages bills below $1.5 million.

“If there are policies that are in the interests of working people, we’ll support them,” Malinauskas said today.

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