Three words could throw shoppers into 'chaos'
REGIONAL traders will avoid the potentially disastrous impact of a legislation wording blunder, thanks to the swift action of industry representatives.
Major retailers in Kingaroy and Murgon, as well as Roma, Chinchilla, Ayr, Blackwater, Bowen, Charters Towers, Childers, Cloncurry, Goondiwindi, Longreach, Mission Beach, Mount Isa and Proserpine would be forced to close over the Easter period under current legislation.
When the State Government amended trading hour laws, the words "including Easter Saturday" were left out of the allowable hours.
The National Retail Association wrote to Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace to point out the problem.
Malcolm Cole, director of external relations for the NRA, said the simple wording error would have caused major issues for retailers and customers.
"What's going on is that in the change last year in trading hours, there was an unintentional oversight, that meant that in previous legislation, stores were allowed to open on Easter Saturday, even though it's a public holiday. That exemption was left out of the new legislation," Mr Cole said.
"What that would have meant is we'd have had four days shut in a row, which is problematic for consumers, and it's problematic for workers."
Mr Cole said Ms Grace had promised to act quickly and change the legislation wording to allow shops to open on Easter Saturday.
This cannot happen, however, until Parliament resumes on February 13.
Ms Grace told The Courier Mail the oversight was not intentional.
"This was an unintentional drafting omission, which was not immediately identified by stakeholders, in Committee nor when the Bill was debated in the House," Ms Grace said.
"When it was brought to our attention, and after working with the National Retail Association, we determined it would be amended and therefore fixed before Easter."
Mr Cole said shops in these areas could plan to be open.
"What the government has done is given certainty," Mr Cole said.
"I would think it would be a very minor amendment to simply reinsert the words "including Easter Saturday", so hopefully that will be done fairly quickly."
Mr Cole said the simple error in wording would have thrown regional shoppers and retailers into chaos over the Easter period.
"One inconvenience is for shoppers in regional areas. Before that long weekend, if you don't get your grocery shopping done you won't have access to a supermarket until Tuesday morning," he said.
"That's a pretty significant inconvenience for shoppers."
He said, for example, supermarkets would be forced to discard large amounts fresh produce before the long weekend as they would be unable to trade until Tuesday.
"There's also very significant costs for businesses. If you're closed for four days, it's five days later before you can sell stock. You'd have massive costs because you just have to throw away a lot of fresh produce," Mr Cole said.
"This isn't only supermarkets, it's also major department stores. Everyone who works in those shops on public holidays would suddenly find themselves not able to work those days, where you get probably double time."
Mr Cole said while the State Government has promised to fix the error before Easter, the blunder demonstrated just how complicated Queensland's trading laws were.
"The background to this really was that the State Government, when they did the trading hours reform, they were planning reforms that would have avoided this issue anyway," he said.
"That was blocked in Parliament. This shows just how complicated Qld's trading hours are. We're hoping they can simplify the system."
Mr Cole pointed out the impact large retailers being unable to open over Easter would have on small businesses.
"People tend to think of this as a big business issue but if I think about, say, Dalby, there are about 40-odd stores in the shopping centre there that actually rely on the large anchor shops to bring in traffic," he said.
"If they can't trade, the small businesses don't bother opening. You find 50 to 60 per cent of small busineseds think it's worthwhile trading because there's people in the centre."