Extract from Hansard:   Trading (Allowable Hours) Amendment Bill 22 Aug 2017

Mr ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (9.59 pm): I rise to speak against the Trading (Allowable Hours) Amendment Bill 2017. As a dutiful parliamentarian I wrote this speech and when I look at the top page it has ‘May 2017’. I have been waiting for so long to deliver this speech that the pages of my speech are starting to go yellow with age. I thought the bill was lost in the mists of time. The only reason it was lost in the mists of time—or certainly headed that way—was that we have had a bill presented to this parliament that was ill conceived, was flawed from start to finish and there were all sorts of problems with it. The government decided some months ago that there was no way in the wide world it was going to get it through, so what did it do?

Ms Jones: We are now. Woo hoo!

Mr ELMES: I am getting to that, Minister. It was reversed out and we have had all this other legislation come in. The reason it was reversed out was that the government could not get it past the crossbenchers. It will be interesting to see, when it comes time for the vote, what sort of deal has been done with some of the crossbenchers in order to save this tragic piece of legislation and for it to go through the House. As I said, the bill is ill conceived. It does not address the significant objections raised by submissions to the parliamentary committee. It has a litany of basic errors that even the government recognised needed to be corrected during the course of this debate. As an example of how inept the drafting of the legislation was, they could not even get the address right for two of the major shopping centres in South-East Queensland, Chermside and Garden City. They have admitted to that. An amendment will have to be moved tonight to correct that simple error. To demonstrate how little this government knows about Queensland outside the south-east corner, the bill as originally presented forgot about the city of Cairns. It forgot that the city of Cairns gets the odd tourist that goes through it, so it is going to need to fix that up too. That is another piece of arrogance from this government that it has admitted needs to be corrected. There was one issue that the government did listen to. From the time that the bill first went before the committee the motor dealers and the caravan dealers of this state, particularly the motor dealers—

Mr ELMES: Thank you very much, member for Whitsunday—arced up like I have not seen them arc up before to make sure that their views were heard and thankfully, from the point of view of the motor dealers and caravan dealers of this state, they have been removed from the legislation.

I would like to quote to the House from two letters that I have received on the issue recently—maybe not so recently because the ink is a bit faded—which present vastly contradictory positions. The minister wrote to me in March claiming that the decision to standardise trading hours will play a huge part in contributing to creating jobs and stimulating the Queensland economy. The primary justification, in my reading of the minister’s letter, is that the government believes that the new hours provide flexibility for customers to shop over a wider span of hours. As if we do not already have enough opportunity to get to the shops and buy what we need seven days a week. Let me present the other side of the coin from a person involved day-to-day in dealing with the potential disaster for hundreds of Queensland small businesses and their owners and families being threatened by the government through this bill. The proprietor of several small supermarkets, one of which is in my electorate, which service some of the smaller communities in the Sunshine Coast wrote to me pleading for this offensive bill to be rejected.

The person in question pointed out to me that the liberalisation of trading hours leads to less employment due to a drop in independent retail sales and that hundreds of millions of dollars are generated into the Queensland economy through interaction which occurs via small independent players. We would be deceiving ourselves tonight if we come into this place and go through this particular debate and not stick up for the small independent players, the small business owners that are the backbone of Queensland’s economy.

I know which letter I believe is better informed and more likely to be an accurate depiction of the consequences of this anti small business bill. The IGA state board, in its submission to the committee, highlighted that following the deregulation of trading hours in South-East Queensland in December last year IGA supermarkets lost $1 million in trading each week in turnover. That means fewer jobs. Fewer hours means fewer jobs not more as the government is trying to claim. The undeniable fact is that this bill does not promote increased employment, all it will do is move existing jobs from hundreds of small businesses into the major outlets which have an increasing stranglehold on retail in this state. With those jobs will go the livelihoods and hope for a better future for the hundreds of families who operate those small businesses. I doubt that the number of jobs lost will match the few extra that might be created by the big retail players. All members of this House—at least those who do some shopping—will be aware that big supermarkets are employing increased technology to reduce the number of staff that they need. Anyone who has walked into a Woolworths or a Coles supermarket or a Bunnings or a Big W will know there is some poor staff member standing there trying to direct you into a self-service checkout which is going to deny the people behind those cash registers their jobs. All this is doing is giving the Coles, the Woolworths, the Big Ws, the Bunnings and that lot the opportunity to reduce their staff turnover and put you, me and everyone else in this parliament through those self-service checkouts. I wonder whether some of the ministers over there have actually been to a shopping centre or to Coles and Woolworths recently and understand that there is a bit of movement in the way they are trying to direct people to do their shopping. They do not employ any more staff than they need.

The result of this legislation will be increased workloads for existing staff in the big retailers as they cope with increased demands caused by the closure of smaller supermarkets. Perhaps our AWU aligned Premier is more interested in furthering the needs of her AWU factional ally, the federal opposition leader Bill Shorten. It is the AWU that covers most employees in the supermarket sector.

Honourable members interjected.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Could we please allow the member for Noosa to be heard.

Mr ELMES: Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have always said that you are a wonderful Deputy Speaker. History has shown that supermarket staff cannot count on the AWU to protect their best interests. Members might be aware that when Mr Shorten led the AWU federally, enterprise bargaining agreements were struck with Coles and Woolworths that actually disadvantaged workers.
Not only is this proposed legislation ill considered; it was hardly considered at all before the government announced what it planned to do following the Mickel review. The government took just two days to deliver its response to the Mickel review findings in February this year. There can only be two possible scenarios in this situation. Either the government told Mr Mickel what to say in his report—and anyone who knows John Mickel would know that no-one tells John Mickel what to say in a report—or it had no intention of taking any notice of what was in the report because it knew what was going to happen anyway. Either scenario is an insult to good government. It is an even bigger insult to hundreds of small business owners who are entitled to objective and fair consideration of their interests by this government. They did not get that with this narrow-minded bill. Make no mistake, this is a cruel, uncaring piece of legislation which is focused on improving the profits and market share of Sydney and Melbourne based big corporations at the expense of Queensland families and the small businesses they run.

The government asserts that the current system of regulated trading hours has become unwieldy. If that is the case, this botched attempt at correcting the situation is a long way from a satisfactory solution. It will not be long before we witness the demise of many small suburban supermarkets and other small businesses that will not be able to compete with the might of the few big players, bolstered by longer trading hours and supported by this government. On behalf of the small businesses in Noosa and those who work in them, I cannot and will not support this bill.