‘Dumbest’ law set to spark Christmas panic: Business group
Queensland retailers are preparing for another round of panic buying over Christmas despite no new coronavirus cases because of the "dumbest" trading hour laws in the country.
Tourists and locals in 16 regional areas have been warned to stock up on snacks, essentials and fruit and vegetables as major retailers and shopping centres are forced into a four-day shutdown over Christmas.
The National Retailers Association (NRA) said businesses had already done it tough this year because of the pandemic, and now the Queensland government's trading laws would be a dagger through their heart.
It's not just locals who will be heavily affected but tourists as more Aussies explore Queensland, with overseas holidays ruled out because of the pandemic.
Popular tourist destinations such as Mission Beach on the Cassowary Coast and Proserpine in the Whitsundays region as well as Mt Isa, Ayr, Kingaroy and Goondiwindi, all popular with grey nomads, are affected by the restrictive trading laws.
NRA manager of industry policy David Stout said the four-day closure would also be a massive drain on employment creation in regional areas.
"These are the dumbest trading hour laws in the nation," Mr Stout said.
"Businesses have been dealing with COVID all year, people want to get out and go shopping at Christmas time, and the shops are going to be shut. That is just dumb."
The way the gazetted public holidays fall in 2020 means major stores and shopping centres in regional areas will be forced to shut their doors at 6pm on Christmas Eve.
They are then prohibited from opening until Tuesday morning, December 29.
He said the NRA had previously applied to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission for a special order to allow trading on Sunday and avoid a four-day closure.
However, the government enacted a five-year freeze in 2017 on any QIRC trading hours applications that ended in August 2022, he said.
"Christmas trading is the time when so many people have normal expenses, and workers are looking for every opportunity to pick up extra shifts to help make ends meet," he said.
"For shoppers, being locked out of supermarkets and department stores at one of the busiest times of the year is extremely inconvenient.
"And in the past we've seen that inconvenience turn to crisis when the forced shutdown coincides with a natural disaster and people are prevented from stocking up on essential items."
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the Palaszczuk Government stood behind their trading hours legislation and there were no plans for change.
She said retail trading laws were reformed in 2017 to be less complex and that included a five-year moratorium on further changes to trading hours.
"These reforms struck the right balance between creating greater consumer choice with protections for retail workers and small retail businesses," she told NCA NewsWire.
"During the Christmas period small retailers, including local grocery stores in regional areas, can remain open."
Retail expert Gary Mortimer said it was going to be a shock to the system for anyone from interstate visiting the affected areas over the Christmas period.
The Queensland University of Technology marketing professor said many tourists or grey nomads were not going to be prepared for a four-day trading shutdown as it didn't occur elsewhere in the country.
"The restrictions on non-exempt retailers in regional Queensland towns are out of touch with national standards," he said.
"When you look at regional Victoria, NSW and SA, the consumers living in those towns are able to access major retailers seven days a week, including some public holidays.
"Incredibly, there still remains in Queensland areas where they can't. The trading hour laws in Queensland are antiquated and out of touch with other states."
He said a bigger conundrum faced supermarkets who needed enough stock on hand for "panic" buying and also adequate supplies of produce when they reopened.
"We saw the impact of panic buying during the year and the inability of supermarkets to carry sufficient inventory to meet demand," Mr Mortimer said.
"If supermarkets close for four days, they can't physically hold that amount of inventory to cover panic buying," he said.
"We are talking about towns with 20,000 residents that have shift workers."
Minister for Industrial Relations Grace Grace has been contacted for comment.
AFFECTED REGIONAL AREAS (ACCORDING TO THE NRA):
* Charters Towers
* Mission Beach
* Mt Isa
Originally published as Qld's 'dumbest' law set to spark Xmas panic