21 September 2017
Last night the Legislative Council passed the Retail Trading Amendment (Boxing Day) Bill 2017. The Christian Democratic Party voted with the government in favour of the Bill, however the Rev Fred Nile MLC moved an amendment to the effect that the Bill would be subject to an Inquiry before Portfolio Committee No. 1 which will be chaired by Rev Nile.
Rev Nile provides these additional comments:
· “I acknowledge that I have received correspondence from various Church leaders who have expressed concerns about the effects of the Bill. I have weighed these concerns against the provision of the Bill and find that many of the fears are uncalled for.”
· “The Bill does not harm any of the existing provisions in the Retail Trading Act 2008 that preserve the right of workers not to be coerced to work on various holidays, including Good Friday, Easter Sunday, before 1pm on ANZAC Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Provisions that impose a penalty for breach of these rights are also unaffected. Provisions that create an aggravated offence, should a worker’s right be violated, are also retained in the Bill. The penalties include up to $11,000 for forcing a retail shop assistant to work and $22,000 for forcing a retailer to open on Boxing Day.”
· “Passing the Bill while referring it for an Inquiry is a reasonable compromise under the circumstances. The Committee will inquire with respect to the impact of the Bill on retail workers and their families, the number of prosecutions made under this legislation, the economic benefits of this legislation, the evidence, if any, of coercion of workers to work on Boxing Day and Christmas Day as well as any other related matters.”
Enclosed: a copy of Rev Nile’s transcript from Hansard, 20 September 2017
Media inquiries: Rev. Fred Nile MLC: (02) 9230 2478
The Rev. The Hon. Fred Nile MLC
Retail Trading Amendment (Boxing Day) Bill 2017
Second Reading Speech
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE ( 15:41 : 2 2):
I join in debate on the Retail Trading Amendment (Boxing Day) Bill 2017, the main purpose of which to remove the sunset clause in the Retail Trading Act 2008 to ensure that all shops and retail bank branches in New South Wales are free to continue to open on future Boxing Days. Removal of the sunset clause is conditional upon the requirement being met that staff have freely chosen to work, which is the most important feature of the legislation for me, and shops have freely chosen to open on Boxing Day. Those principles underpin this legislation, which is why the Christian Democratic Party supports the bill. As members know, Boxing Day is neither a religious day nor a sacred day; it is a secular day. As members also know, in 2015 changes were made to the Retail Trading Act 2008 through the Retail Trading Amendment Act 2015 to permit all shops to open on Boxing Day, provided that staff freely elected to work on that day.
As members know, there are many areas of the State that are regarded as tourist centres where trading took place on Boxing Day. The amending Act also introduced two new offences for coercing a person to work or for coercing a retail tenant to open on Boxing Day or on any other restricted trading day. It is not correct, as other members have contended during this debate, that retail tenants will be forced to open their shops in retail shopping centres. If they are forced to do so against their will, that is against the law. Shopping centre owners will be hit with big penalties if they force shopping centre tenants to open on Boxing Day. Under the amended Act, a maximum penalty of $11,000 applies for coercing a retail shop assistant to work and a maximum penalty of $22,000 applies for coercing a retailer to open on Boxing Day. What shopping centre would take the risk of forcing a tenant to open on Boxing Day in the knowledge that they face a $22,000 fine for taking that action?
The changes introduced by the amending Act provided greater choice and convenience for shoppers as well as opportunities for those who wished to work and earn extra income. It also reduced distortions between bricks and mortar retailers and online retailers. The 2015 changes required an independent review be undertaken to assess the validity of the legislation’s policy objectives. A former Secretary of Treasury, Professor Percy Allan, AM, was appointed as the legislation’s independent reviewer. His report was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on 10 August 2017. The report concludes that there was sufficient support from shoppers, retail owners, managers and shop assistant workers to continue with statewide trading on Boxing Day. The House supported that independent review by Professor Allan, but now some members—particularly those in the Opposition—will not accept his review or his recommendations.
However, the Government has accepted Professor Allan’s recommendations, particularly the following: to conduct an information campaign to better inform retail workers and retailers that they can freely elect to work or to open or not on Boxing Day—I ask members to note the words “freely elect”; to assist businesses to prepare for Boxing Day by displaying high-level best practice on the New South Wales Industrial Relations website for planning, notifying and rostering staff on Boxing Day; and to meet with relevant unions, religious and industry organisations to review how best to inform retail owners, managers and workers of their obligations and rights in relation to Boxing Day. I congratulate Professor Allan on his very comprehensive inquiry and report. I have his recommendations and his report. In principle, those recommendations have been adopted by the Government.
I received correspondence to which other members referred in this debate. When the letters are carefully read, which I have done, there seems to have been misunderstandings by the writers of the letters and the issues do not seem to have been comprehended. I am not criticising the writers of the letters because they based the letters on certain information given to them that either was not correct or was loaded to produce a certain outcome. The letters did produce a certain outcome—stirring up church leaders to write the letters that have been read in the House today. However, when the letters are read carefully, which I have done, it is clear that some of the statements simply do not match reality. Obviously, someone has given the writers of the letters a briefing that was intended to stir them up, which it did, but the briefing was not based on facts. I also received a letter from the Wollongong City Council, which I found very interesting. The letter is dated 14 September 2017 and has two signatories, the General Manager of the Wollongong City Council and the Executive Director of the Illawarra Business Chamber. The letter states:
RETAIL TRADING AMENDMENT ACT 2015
We write to you regarding the report into the Retail Trading Amendment Act 2015 tabled in NSW Parliament on 10 August 2017.
The report, prepared by Professor Percy Allan AM was supportive of extending Boxing Day trade throughout NSW, provided employees choose to work. It found that Boxing Day trade in 2015 and 2016 was one of the most popular shopping days of the Christmas/New Year season and that allowing trade on this day did not detract from retailing activity on other trading days. The report also found that there was sufficient support from shoppers and retail owners, managers and workers to continue with state wide trading on Boxing Day, however, shop owners need to be better informed of their obligations regarding coercing employees to work on public holidays.
Wollongong City Council and the Illawarra Business Chamber business chamber support the findings of the report to allow Wollongong to participate in Boxing Day trade. Historically, Wollongong, New South Wales’ third largest city with a population of 211,000, has not been able to trade on Boxing Day through an anomaly in legislation, while Stockland Shellharbour has been able to trade.”
I assume other areas regarded as tourist centres have been able to as well. The main city of Wollongong was all locked up, but just down the road other shopping centres were open on Boxing Day. It was nothing to do with the legislation. It was prior to the legislation because it was happening in this State. It makes it ridiculous to imply that there was no trading on Boxing Day. There was a large amount of trading in various centres and towns across the State. The letter goes on to say:
The Wollongong city centre has undergone a massive transformation, with a $1.3 billion investment over the last four years and a further $300 million in the pipeline, including a $200 million upgrade to Wollongong Central. The two year trial, which allowed Wollongong to trade on Boxing Day, greatly benefitted the Wollongong city centre, its businesses, and residents. Boxing Day is traditionally the biggest day of trade for the year and allowing Wollongong to participate in this trade helps support a vibrant and active city centre, providing a significant benefit to the Wollongong economy and local community, through capturing retail spend locally. The 2016 Boxing Day trade was very successful in Wollongong, with 95 per cent of GPT retailers, which is the major CBD shopping centre, opting to trade, and shopper traffic count 19 per cent higher than the previous maximum trade day. We encourage you to support the legislative amendments to allow Boxing Day trade to continue.
The letter goes on to say, “Please contact us if you need further information.” That letter was very encouraging to me because I lived in that South Coast area for 17 years and shopped at Wollongong. We have turned a disaster into a success story through this legislation. Wollongong was suffering economic downturn and through the legislation it has recaptured its prosperity. The Australian Retailers Association is very happy with this legislation. In its statement it says:
The Australian Retailers Association [ARA] applauds the New South Wales Government in moving to legislate Boxing Day trade across all parts of New South Wales after it was welcomed by retailers, employees, and consumers during a two-year trial. An independent review with comprehensive feedback from business owners, employees, and shoppers has revealed this legislation will level the playing field for retailers who were previously prohibited from taking part in the Boxing Day sales simply because of their location. The ARA Executive Director said this announcement is great news for New South Wales retailers as Boxing Day is one of the busiest trading days of the year. Consumers want to shop on Boxing Day and retailers want to trade. It’s as simple as that.
Giving New South Wales retailers an opportunity to trade on the public holiday not only gives retailers a chance to increase their sales, but it allows physical stores to compete with online and interstate retailers. As the retail sector is the largest private industry employer, the ARA believes this decision is also great news for New South Wales retail staff. Allowing boxing day trade in all areas of New South Wales gives retailers the opportunity to roster volunteer staff on one of the biggest trading days of the year. Public holiday rates are a great way for employees to earn money and increasing trading hours for New South Wales retailers significantly reduces underemployment. This legislation aligns with the ARA’s submission to the New South Wales Government, which supports deregulated trading hours on Boxing Day and will be introduced in the coming months. The ARA will work with retailers and their employees to ensure they are fully aware of their rights ahead of Boxing Day this year.
All sectors are cooperating to ensure all employees will be fully informed of their rights and their freedom not to work if they do not wish to on Boxing Day. I move:
That the question be amended by inserting at the end:
(2)That the provisions of the bill be referred to Portfolio Committee No. 1—Premier and Finance for inquiry and report in relation to:
(a)The impact of the bill on retail workers and their families;
(b)The number of prosecutions made under this legislation;
(c)The economic benefits of this legislation;
(d)The evidence, if any, of coercion of workers to work on Boxing Day and Christmas Day, and
(e)any other related matters.
(3)That the inquiry commence in October 2019.
I urge the House to support the legislation to support families and workers in New South Wales.