Queenslanders in 16 major regional centres have been warned to brace for an unprecedented four-day closure, as a result of the state’s antiquated trading hours laws.
Because of how the gazetted public holidays fall in 2020, major stores in regional areas will be forced to shut their doors at 6pm on Thursday, December 24, instead of the normal 9pm close. They won’t be allowed to reopen them until Tuesday morning, December 29.
The affected towns include major tourist centres and regional hubs, such as Ayr, Mission Beach, Proserpine, Mt Isa, Kingaroy and Goondiwindi.
In previous years, the NRA has applied to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission for a special order to allow trading on the Sunday and avoid a four-day closure. However, the Government has enacted a five-year freeze on any QIRC trading hours applications, meaning there is no avenue to assist regional Queenslanders.
NRA Manager, Industry Policy, David Stout said the four-day closure would be extremely inconvenient for consumers, but even worse – a massive drain on employment creation in regional areas.
“This four-day forced closure could not come at a worse time for regional centres that have struggled throughout the year with COVID and the lack of visitors,” Mr Stout said,
“Christmas trading is the time when so many people have normal expenses, and workers are looking for every opportunity to pick up extra shifts to help make ends meet.
“For shoppers, being locked out of supermarkets and department stores at one of the busiest times of the year is extremely inconvenient. And in the past we’ve seen that inconvenience turn to crisis when the forced shutdown coincides with a natural disaster and people are prevented from stocking up on essential items.
“Retailers had hoped the Minister might step in and help resolve the issue. There were a number of solutions, which including changing the public holiday designations in those centres, passing legislation or regulation to allow stores to open on either December 26 or 28, or allowing one-off Sunday trading in those centres on the 27th.
“However, there doesn’t seem to be either the time or the political interest to fix the problem.”
Mr Stout said the closure – which occur again next year if nothing is done – was a perfect example of why Queensland needed proper trading hours reform.
“Some years ago, this Government commission Prof John Mickel to undertake a comprehensive investigation into retail trading hours, and he produced an outstanding and balanced report.
“Sadly though, his recommendations were cherry-picked, leading to a range of policy and operational anomalies such as this one.
“The NRA calls on the Palaszczuk Government to return to the Mickel Review and fully implement the recommendations so we don’t have any further glitches such as this one.”
Why is this four-day shut down taking place?
- Some areas of Queensland are prevented from trading on Sundays under the Trading (Allowable Hours) Act 1990.
- Boxing Day (Saturday 26th) is a designated closed day in these towns under the Act, but Monday 28th has also been declared a public holiday on which stores are required to close.
- From 2019, Christmas Eve has been declared a half-day public holiday from 6pm.
- So stores in the affected regional areas will be forced to close their doors at 6pm on Thursday, December 24, and won’t be able to reopen them until 8am on Tuesday. December 29.
- The recommendations of the John Mickel Review from 2016 would have allowed stores in regional areas to trade on the Sunday, avoiding the four-day closure. However, these recommendations were only partly implemented, which has caused this situation.
The affected centres:
- Charters Towers
- Mission Beach
- Mt Isa