Hornsby Sunday Retail Trading
HORNSBY SUNDAY RETAIL TRADING
Mr O'DOHERTY (Ku-ring-gai) [6.4]: Not long after I was elected member for Ku-ring-gai in August last year the issue of Sunday trading in Hornsby was brought to my attention by a number of constituents. Debate about Sunday trading had been going on for some time. I am not referring to Sunday trading by hotels; that debate took place many decades ago. I am referring to weekend trading, the deregulation of shopping hours. At that time a large number of centres around Sydney had deregulated hours and were trading very successfully. Retailers in Hornsby were very concerned that they were losing out, and the community certainly generated a demand to be able to shop in large centres, especially on Sundays. On Sundays families can have a pleasant and relaxing time shopping. According to the evidence collected by these retailers, Hornsby was certainly losing out to centres nearby, such as Chatswood, Castle Hill, Parramatta and other places that my constituents found readily accessible.
The question was: why could Hornsby not have Sunday trading? That question was eventually taken up and asked by the Minister for Industrial Relations following my representations and after discussions I had with the Minister, retailers and other people in the electorate. It was eventually decided that weekend trading would be able to go ahead at Hornsby. Weekend trading at Hornsby commenced before Christmas. I support fully the rights of retailers to open on Sunday. I believe it is important that we as a society should be able to deregulate shopping hours. Deregulation of a whole range of things is good for society. It makes our society more productive and allows people greater freedom of choice as to when they shop, engage in entertainment, and so on.
I am concerned that there should be no coercion regarding the opening of shops, particularly on Sundays. Some people feel very strongly about this issue. As a member of the Christian community in Sydney, I want to ensure that people who feel strongly about not opening on Sunday should not have to open on that day. For the record, my view about the Sabbath is that it is good to have a day of rest on one day of the week, as is certainly prescribed by God in the early chapters of the Bible, but that day of rest need not necessarily be on a Sunday. We can deregulate our day of rest in the same way that we deregulate other things. The question is: what is in our hearts and minds on that day of rest?
I am concerned that a constituent of mine, a small shopowner, feels he will be coerced by the large shopping centre of which he is a leaseholder to open on Sundays. He is concerned that he will be forced to sign a lease that says he must be open whenever the centre is open. That is anathema to the whole idea of deregulation. It is anathema to me as a Liberal member of Parliament and it is anathema to most members of our society. I believe there should not be that coercion for small business owners to open on Sundays. I would be very concerned if it is correct that he was being coerced by the terms of a lease or other means to open on Sundays. My understanding is that the Building Owners and Managers Association, the industry organisation that represents building owners and managers and the managers of large shopping centres, has an agreement with the Government that there will be no coercion for its leaseholders to open on Sundays. The organisation believes it should be up to the individual shopkeeper whether he or she opens on Sundays.
This evening I call on the Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations in another place to confirm for the benefit of my constituent that an agreement has been reached between the Government and the large building owners and managers. If any case of coercion of small shopkeepers is brought to the attention of the Minister I ask him to act to protect their rights to be open only when they feel it is necessary.
Mr CAUSLEY (Clarence - Minister for Natural Resources) [6.9]: The Minister for Industrial Relations has made it clear that the Government has no intention of forcing shopkeepers to open on Sundays. The idea behind the legislation, which was introduced into this House by the present Premier, was that people should have the right to open or not to open. That is a freedom available in a society such as ours. In some instances it is of great benefit, particularly in a city like Sydney, which is a mecca for tourists. It is of benefit also to two-income families which have no opportunity to shop during the week. The Government's enterprise agreement legislation makes that possible. The Minister for Industrial Relations has advised that at this stage there is no formal agreement with the Building Owners and Managers Association that there will be no coercion. Perhaps that is something the Minister should clarify. He has advised that he will make a formal statement tomorrow or perhaps answer a question in relation to the matter in the other place, where he is the Leader of the House.
Private members' statements noted.
[Madam Deputy-Speaker left the chair at 6.10 p.m. The House resumed at 7.30 p.m.]