Retail review: National business competition report ignites debate about trading hours

A LANDMARK competition review of trading hours Australia-wide has reignited debate surrounding trade in Mildura’s Langtree Mall.
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Economist Ian Harper, chair of an inquiry into retail trading, pharmacy ownership, land zoning and government services, said bans on retail trading should be “strictly limited”.

In what has been dubbed “The Harper Review”, Professor Harper suggested those bans should be limited to Christmas Day, GoodFriday and Anzac Day.

Most states, including Victoria, have deregulated trading hours, but restrictions remain in place for Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland.

Yesterday, Mildura City manager Cathy Violi would not rule out a shake-up of trading in Mildura’s central business district but admitted it had always been a contentious issue.

Earlier this year, traders opened during Sunraysia’s Easter long weekend and reaped the rewards.

“We had one of our biggest Easter trading periods on Good Friday with our Show ‘n’ Shine,” Ms Violi said.

But in contrast, many retailers refused to open during the 26th annual Desert City Rodders Goanna Run, last October, when crowds milled through Mildura’s CBD.

“We do work with our traders but we are a small business environment,” Ms Violi said.

“We have mum and dad type operators, managing their own businesses along with the ups and downs of life.”

Ms Violi said penalty rates were an obvious hindrance to extended trading hours and staffing levels for small businesses in the mall.

She is interested to see whether the draft Harper Review proposes any assistance or changes to rates in the hospitality and retail sectors.

At Mildura Central, manager Joy Patching said the centre’s hours “are what they are”, with each business able to extend their hours asneeded.

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