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Coles and Woolworths join forces on trading hours push

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 26/05/2014 Max Mason
a © Reuters/Daniel Munoz a

In a rare sign of solidarity between Australia's supermarket giants, Coles and Woolworths are both pushing for a standardised framework on trading hours and the loosening of the restrictions on the times they are allowed to operate.

Inconsistency across states and territories is a significant burden, which if harmonised, could result in millions of dollars in savings, both supermarkets argued in their submissions to the Productivity Commission's Cost of Doing Business: Retail Trade Industry study.

"The benefits of allowing consumers and traders to decide for themselves when to shop are well established," Woolworths government relations manager Michael Samaras said. "The elimination of restrictive regulation in this area produces substantial and immediate positives and benefits of reform have been studied and examined exhaustively."

A 2013 report by the Queensland Competition Authority estimates removing current restrictions in the state would amount to a $200 million per year benefit, Woolworths said.

Coles highlighted the inconsistencies across Australia over the Easter and Anzac Day, 2013, with regards to trading hours, operating hours and whether they incurred public holiday penalty rates.

For example, on Anzac day, New South Wales and Victoria must stay closed until 1pm, while in the Australia Capital Territory and the Northern Territory it is recommended they stay closed until 1pm, in Tasmania they must stay closed until 12pm, and in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia they must not open.

"For retailers operating within the national trading marketplace, complying with these regulations which differ State by State adds a significant and costly regulatory burden," Coles general manager of corporate affairs Robert Hadler said.

The Australian Retailers Association said given the faltering economy, slow growth pace, rising unemployment, rising costs of business and increased global competition, the Fair Work Commission's decision on wages has been generous.

"The ARA strongly recommends minimum wage or junior wage increases are realistic and reasonable, taking into consideration economic weak trading conditions, current and imminent wage bill increases for industries undergoing structural adjustment and underemployment levels," the ARA said.

The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, the union representing workers in the retail industry, said the biggest challenging facing Australian retailers was overseas competition.

"The retail industry continues to be faced with unfair competition from overseas on line retailers who are not charged GST or import duties for goods they ship into Australia which have a threshold value less than $1000.

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