Monday, 25 June 2012
Private Members' Business
Trading Hours in Adelaide
This motion is all about the deal to extend trading hours in Adelaide. For a long time shop trading hours in Adelaide have been a contentious issue. My union has been at the heart of that; we even took a matter to the High Court some years ago to make sure that trading hours could not be extended without the consent of the parliament—a very important decision. Since then the issue of trading hours has been the subject of some debate in the community. That was why it was so good to see a deal being done by Business SA, the shop assistants union, the LHMU and Premier Weatherill to extend trading hours in the city. That provides an important boost for the city of Adelaide. It was supported by the local mayor and the city council. It gives the city of Adelaide a competitive advantage over the suburbs, in some ways. Being able to open and trade on public holidays makes for a vibrant city and particularly makes a lot of sense during Mad March. It is good news for the city of Adelaide.
Most importantly though, as part of the deal, after 7 pm, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve will become public holidays, and this is because Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are particular occasions that are important to families and important to communities. Those who work on those days deserve, firstly, to have the right to work or not to work and, secondly, penalty rates—some recompense for working antisocial hours. There is no more antisocial time to work than Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve. These are very important provisions and I hope to see them spread throughout the country. It is a shame that this has not been addressed until now.
We know that that is particularly important for my old union—the shop assistants union. It is important for night fillers; it is important for department store workers who have to set up for sales on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. People take for granted that all the shop assistants are at home. In actual fact, they are all setting up for the sales. They are all setting up for the post-Christmas period. It is very important for those workers. It is very important for fast food workers. We were just talking about young workers before. The coalition has a great deal of concern for them in terms of minimum shifts but not so much concern for them in terms of working late at night on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. It is important for those workers to get some small bonus for working these antisocial hours.
It is important to note that an agreement was made with Business SA. I see the member for Mayo here. He worked for Business SA many moons ago. That is his only private sector experience, except for his short time working in Mildura as a car park attendant or something like that.
It is nice to know that those opposite have some real-life experience.
A deal was done between Business SA and the SDA. Obviously, Peter Vaughan deserves credit for being far-sighted. I think David Di Troia from the LHMU deserves credit for being far-sighted and embracing this. It means a lot to his members indeed. Of course, Premier Weatherill deserves a lot of credit as well. It takes some courage for a new Premier to support a fairly hard-fought and contentious issue for business. There is often a lot of shying away from business lobby groups and bowing and kowtowing to them. We see a lot of this from the opposition. The member for Mayo likes kowtowing to the mining industry a lot. But Premier Weatherill did a very good job and I think Peter Malinauskas has proved himself to everybody in South Australia as being one of those very good union leaders, concerned with his membership, concerned with delivering real benefits to his memberships—real money in the pocket.
While we all ascribe to Ben Chifley's vision for the light on the hill—it is not just about putting a sixpence in someone's pocket—in a very real way, the labour movement to me is about putting something back in workers' pockets; in this case, penalty rates on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, which should be family time. I am sure the member for Mayo is spending Christmas with his family; I know how important his family is to him. It would be wonderful if could find it in himself to extend that same benefit to retail workers, fast food workers, policemen, ambulance drivers and all those who work on New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve.
I rise to raise very grave concerns about this motion on trading hours in Adelaide. I do say at the beginning that one of the problems with the Australian Labor Party's leadership at the moment, and the reason we are seeing a lot of conversations around the building this week and stories in the newspaper and so forth, is that members realise that the current leadership does not actually believe in anything in their soul. The same cannot be said for the member for Wakefield. He does; there is no question he does. People should know that he has very strong beliefs, and I think that is admirable. He understands that I have the same views. There is no doubt that this motion comes from a genuine belief in what he is doing. However, the problem with the belief—and where it is flawed, sadly—is that it is a belief that puts the insiders above the outsiders in our society.
The member for Wakefield likes to talk about families and the family time and so forth and about appropriate pay levels. He forgets to tell people that you still currently get payed penalty rates on those occasions in most of these professions he talks about. Anyway, putting aside the facts, he talks about families. The worst thing you can do to a family is visit unemployment upon them. What this motion will do, undoubtedly, is make it harder for younger people in particular is to get access to a job in the first place. There is a cost with all of this. Business is not without a limit on their resources. We know that people who work on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve in retail, hospitality and in other industries are generally young people, who are getting a chance at a job and a chance to earn some money to make more of themselves, whether at university or whatever it may be. For instance, New Year's Eve is one of the biggest trading nights of the year, as is Christmas Eve, and if you apply an additional burden on an employer that evening, while you might be able to say to those already employed, 'We've got you more,' what you say to those who are not employed is, 'We've got you less.' That is the truth about the motion and what the ridiculous piece of legislation in South Australia is going to do.
The fact that Peter Vaughan signed up to it should say enough—that it is a bad piece of legislation in the first place. I should know; I worked for Peter Vaughan at one point in time, so I should know better than most how bad it has been for South Australian business. It has been appalling. As I said to the member for Wakefield's very good friend and future candidate for somewhere, Peter Malinauskas, at the Kangaroo Island races, 'You only get one Peter Vaughan in your lifetime.' I will not repeat what the head of the shop trading association said following that comment. But it is true: this is an absurd deal for South Australian business. Unsurprisingly, it put Peter Vaughan's interests above those he was meant to be representing.
John Chapman, on the other hand, who is a terrific man—a very good constituent—has made some very important points about this bill. He said:
Many small operators will simply close down on the new half day public holidays, as they cannot afford the additional costs, and that would be bad for consumers across the entire state.
That is what is at stake with this change. It pretends that there is a magic pudding which people can reach into without cost, that we can have more people employed and that we will pay them more at the same time.
We know that at the moment the retail industry in South Australia and across the country is going through challenging and difficult environments. I am sure the member for Wakefield and the member for Kingston are getting the same feedback from their small businesses and retailers that I am getting. They are now competing in a global marketplace. For the first time ever, retail is trade exposed. People can very easily access goods from overseas retailers at much less cost than they can in Australia, and that is putting great pressure on retailers. At such a point in history, when great structural change is happening in this industry, why would you make it harder for them to compete, all on the basis of the airy-fairy notion that Premier Wetherall is becoming more and more attached to that there is no cost to these decisions? There is great cost. There is great cost to families who will not get the chance for a second job and families who will miss out on opportunities because of this. You just have to ask the aged-care industry what this is going to do to them. This has great cost. It is a bad piece of state legislation and proves how incompetent the state government is. I condemn the member for Wakefield for moving this motion. (Time expired)
I am very pleased to speak in favour of this motion. It is no surprise that the member for Mayo is railing against this. He is well known for his opposition to penalty rates in any circumstance, but I think the member for Mayo has to keep this in perspective. What we are talking about is declaring after seven o'clock on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve public holidays. Cultural norms would suggest that Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are important in our community. They are culturally important and something special. Indeed, many people in my electorate who migrated from England are used to celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. We are not talking about an onerous task.
The member for Mayo talked about whole second jobs going. He needs to keep this in perspective. We are talking about two highly significant days in our culture. I think this shows that the state government is doing a great job. I have to say that this is an example of where people can compromise. I know that the member for Mayo is not used to that. Certainly his party here in the federal parliament is not used to working together for the betterment of all, but that is what happened in South Australia. I would like to commend everyone involved. This is something that was championed by the SDA, led by Peter Malinauskas, and a number of other unions. They negotiated with business organisations. I think that is a very good model, where you can get a compromise.
The legislation passed by the state government involves also broadening trading hours in the CBD, and I think that is very important and something that will make our city vibrant. But it does not extend to supermarkets. We have to remember that the policy of the Liberal Party in South Australia is to have total deregulation of shopping hours—24-hour shopping so that retail assistants do not get any time off.
This is not just something that, as the member for Mayo said, insiders think. If he went out and spoke to his constituents and said, 'Do you think people should have a choice whether or not to work after seven o'clock on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve; and, if you do choose to, should you be rewarded with penalty rates,' I think he would find that a lot of average people would say, 'Yes, we do think that is right. We do think that is the decent thing to do.' Indeed, a survey of people found that 80 per cent agreed with this. They agreed and believed that this was the right thing to do.
I do not think it is too much to ask that on these special, cultural occasions we give people some time off. Having worked in retail—and I know people in the hospitality industry—I know the lead-up to Christmas is very hard. It is very difficult. I used to work in a big retail company and it is a lot of work, and I have to say they work towards this in a very diligent way. Having some time off is really incredibly important. So this is an agreement of government, business and the union movement, working together to get a good outcome not just for workers but for whole communities, for families that want to be able to spend Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve with their loved ones.
While the member for Mayo would like to blow this up into a debate about penalty rates—as I have said before, we do know he is against penalty rates—we on this side of the House—
Mr Briggs interjecting—
believe strongly that people should be remunerated if they have to work at difficult times, at times that are not usual working hours. Therefore, I think this is good. I would like to congratulate Peter Malinauskas, Business SA and also Premier Wetherill on really showing a lot of foresight on this issue. (Time expired)
Mr Briggs interjecting—
Given some of the debate that we have heard from the other side, I think it is important to look at exactly what this motion says because, from what we have heard from the other side, we simply do not know if they are actually debating the motion before us. The wording is:
That this House:
(1) notes the South Australian Labor Government's proposal to extend trading hours in Adelaide with the exception of certain public holidays;
(3) supports the South Australian Labor Government's policy to declare part day public holidays after 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
It seems a rather innocuous motion. However, on the issue of trading hours I believe that a business, especially a small business, should be free to open when it wants to, rather than being told by government legislation when it can and cannot open.
The difficulty that small business people have is that, when they have to open on a weekend—on a Saturday or Sunday—because of the penalty rates they would be forced to pay their staff, they find they have no alternative but to work those hours themselves. So we find throughout our community that we have many people in small business working six- and seven-day weeks, longer than anyone else in any other sector of the community, to keep their business open because of this type of legislation. Those who are often in favour of this legislation are silent on what is truly affecting small business, that tilts the level playing field away from them, and that is our zoning laws, which have a great restriction on where a small business can establish and set up. That is what causes the great inequities that we see in rent paid by small business compared with their larger competitors.
It is worth while noting a comment by one of the most notable economists and social philosophers of the 20th century, Ludwig von Mises. He talked about central planning and how it influences people's ordinary lives; about these types of restrictive planning laws that restrict where small business can be located:
The planner is a potential dictator who wants to deprive all other people of the power to plan and act according to their own plans. He aims at one thing only: the exclusive absolute pre-eminence of his own plan.
That is where we see so much difficulty in our retail sector. These issues are a result of the restrictions that we have on where small retailers can set up shop.
Running a small retail business in today's economy is very difficult. We are now, probably for the first time in retail's history, competing on an international scale. If you are running a retail shop today, you are in competition with anyone selling on the internet. The internet is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. That is why we should look to deregulate our retail areas where we possibly can, to try and give our retail shops the ability to compete against the internet. But we also need to look at deregulating our zoning laws to drive rents down and make sure that small business in our retail sector can compete effectively against the internet, because that is currently not happening.
Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve are important occasions for families to spend together. However, if a retail shop wishes to open on those days, should it be up to the government to legislate and say that they have to close their doors? I say that is a step too far. Although this motion is quite simplistic, we need to be very careful we do not overregulate our retail sector, not only in our zoning laws but especially in our planning laws as well. Thank you.
I rise to speak in support of this motion and commend the member for Wakefield for bringing it to the attention of the House. I listened to the comments from the member for Mayo and I will say two things. Firstly, at least he as a South Australian was prepared to come into the chamber and debate this issue; I do not see any other South Australian members here right now debating an issue that is pertinent to South Australia.
I come to this debate as someone who from the time I left school to the time I came into this chamber ran a small business. I operated a small business and in fact a range of different small businesses along the way that operated seven days a week from morning til night. I can well recall that each Christmas and New Year's Eve the businesses I operated were open. I would always work on those evenings, because I did not want to impose on the people who worked for us, to take away from them what I believed was very important family time.
It is a very important time for families. Irrespective of whether or not you are a Christian, irrespective of whether your new year starts on 1 January, those two occasions are universally accepted as times of celebration across the world, particularly for Christians. There is no other time of the year, other than perhaps the Thursday before Good Friday, that businesses around the country in fact close early in order to give their staff a little bit of extra time. So anyone who works at those times is clearly being imposed on, clearly being deprived of family time and clearly making a sacrifice. It is high time that that was properly recognised, as is the case in the agreement drawn up between industry in South Australia and the South Australian government.
I want to make a couple of other comments in response to what the member for Mayo said. I was disappointed to hear him having a go at Peter Vaughan. I have not always agreed with Peter Vaughan, but I will say this: for years and years Peter Vaughan has been a voice for businesses and small businesses in South Australia. Whilst I might not have agreed with him on all occasions over the years, I certainly respect the fact that he was trying to do the best that he could on behalf of his members.
Mr Briggs interjecting—
If the member for Mayo does not share that view, that is his opinion. But as someone who would probably see Peter Vaughan as being on the other side of politics from me, I have always seen him as someone who stands up for the people he represents. I would also make this point. He talked about giving a go to young people. It is my view that it is not about giving a go to young people in reality; it is about exploiting young people by saying to them: 'You will work for less than what you should be entitled to because you are desperate, because this is perhaps the only time that you can get a job.' I find that argument entirely flawed.
The third argument that the member for Mayo put up is that small businesses today are competing with businesses around the world. That is absolutely true, but I cannot imagine any person in hospitality working on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve having to compete with someone across the world. Nor can I imagine anyone working on New Year's Eve or Christmas Eve, even if they work in retail, having to compete with someone across the world, because people who shop at that time of the night are shopping because they need their last-minute goods and they are certainly not going to be able to get them from competitors on the other side of the world. So quite frankly that is also a flawed argument.
This motion recognises that we have changed shopping hours across the country in most states over the last three or four decades—and rightly so—but we have never stopped to think that, in changing the shopping hours, which we have done because society has changed, it might also be high time to look at what public holidays and what other times in a normal week are relevant and appropriate in terms of being paid penalty rates. This motion recognises that those two evenings are times that truly are set aside for families or, if not families, for friendships and so on. Anyone who works at those times ought to be paid appropriately.
It is interesting to note that all of those people who claim that they want additional shopping hours and who would like to see the shops open additional hours and the like are generally not working themselves. The loudest voice comes from those sectors of the community who do not have to make the sacrifice. (Time expired)
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 12:38 to 12:57