A Millicent supermarket owner has called on the Labor Party and crossbench MPs to thwart the latest bid to deregulate shopping hours across South Australia by the Liberal State Government.
Preliminary legislation is set to be introduced to State Parliament later today, but Foster’s Foodland manager Dave Foster said the changes are unwarranted. If passed, the legislation would pave the way for a binding referendum on shopping hours deregulation to be held at the same time as the next State election in March.
Millicent is one of the few places in regional SA where trading is regulated and Mr Foster said the status quo should remain. His family-owned business was founded in 1947 and has 34 employees on the payroll.
According to Mr Foster, the local community has twice voted strongly in favour of the current trading hours which restrict the opening hours of his store as well as Woolworths.
They must remain closed on Sundays, public holidays and most nights but the restrictions do not apply to the smaller IGA supermarket. He said the current trading arrangements meant Millicent could sustain three supermarkets.
“Show me another town in country South Australia which has three supermarkets?” Mr Foster said. “Any changes would be detrimental to the local community.”
He pointed out the current trading arrangements also ensured the continued viability of fellow independent and smaller supermarkets in suburban Adelaide. Since the referendum proposal was announced by Treasurer Rob Lucas on Tuesday, the Labor Party has signalled its continued opposition to significant shopping hours reform.
Mr Lucas said the referendum would be the first in SA in 30 years and only the 10th in the state’s history. He 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and for all, whether they want the freedom to shop, trade and work when and where they choose without our confusing, outdated laws stopping them,” Mr Lucas said.
“We know that sensible shop trading hours reform has overwhelming public support. “We took greater freedom of choice in shop trading as a major policy to the 2018 election seeking a mandate from South Australians, they delivered us that mandate but it has been frustrated by Labor and their shoppies’ union mates every step of the way.
“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.”
If the shopping hours changes sought by the State Government are successful, there would still be some restrictions on trading on Christmas Day, Good Friday and the morning of Anzac Day.
The SE Voice has approached Liberal member for MacKillop Nick McBride for comment.