Mischin reveals weaknesses in trading hours thinking

Friday 19 Aug 2016

Earlier this year, we tabled a petition in State Parliament that called for inquiry into the effects of previous changes to trading hours, before any further changes were considered.

We wanted to make sure that the impacts of earlier Barnett Government changes on jobs and small businesses, as well as the working conditions and family lives of retail workers were taken into consideration, before any further changes were made.

As you know, Colin Barnett wants to bring forward opening times for big retailers from 8am to 7am on weekdays, giving them even more market share.

Unfortunately, Commerce Minister successfully argued against our inquiry being set up.  But, in doing so, he demonstrated just how out of touch he is, and how ill-informed his decision making actually is.

In making his argument, Mischin acknowledged that the Barnett Government had performed no economic modelling of the effects changes to trading hours had on jobs.

He argued that an inquiry would be of “little benefit” because lots of other reports and studies had already been undertaken.  However, the reports he cited were either out of date, not Western Australian or written by lobby groups with sympathetic views to the big retailers.

ABS figures show the average number of people working in retail in 2011 was 131,000, while in 2015 it had dropped to 129,000, despite the fact the population had increased by 260,000 over the same time.

While there has been a pickup in part-time employment in the sector in 2016, a continuing decline in full-time employment means the number of working hours generated by the sector is continuing to fall.  The average number of full time retail jobs fell from 68,800 in the six months to May 2015 to 65,200 in the six months to May 2016.

This, despite the big retailers continuing to open new stores and the volume of retail trade in WA continuing to increase.

The figures clearly show that deregulation has not created more work. How the government can press ahead with further changes without examining the employment outcomes of its previous changes is beyond us.

But Mischin’s detachment from reality doesn’t end here.

In his argument against an inquiry, he also argued that retail workers shouldn’t worry about the impact of 7am starts on childcare arrangements, because child care providers would open earlier to cater to the circumstances of retail workers.  He then went on to say that earlier starts wouldn’t be a problem for retail workers reliant on public transport, because the trains and buses started running between 5am and 5.30am.

What planet is this guy on?

The idea that childcare centres around Perth will start opening earlier if the big retailers are given the power to open earlier is completely unrealistic.  The idea that someone working in bakery can get to work for a 5am start on a train that starts running at 5am is similarly nonsensical.

In fact, instead of making a case for further changes to trading hours, as Mischin attempted to do in arguing against our inquiry, the Minister has actually revealed how out of touch and ill informed his policy making actually is.