SA Bill to Reform Retail Trading Hour Laws Introduced

Tuesday 25 May 2021 @ 9.26 a.m. | Legal Research | Trade & Commerce

On 13 May 2021, the Retail Trading Bill 2021 (SA) (‘the Bill’) was introduced in the South Australian Legislative Council by Treasurer Rob Lucas (‘the Treasurer’). In introducing the Bill, the Treasurer stated that South Australia’s existing legal landscape for retail trading hours was “an impossibly confusing mess” that needed remaking.

However, the idea of deregulating shopping hours has faced strong opposition. An ABC News article outlined that those against the change argued that small businesses would be negatively affected and that it would be unfair to retail workers. Therefore, alongside the Bill, the Treasurer has also introduced the Referendum (Retail Trading) Bill 2021 (SA) (‘the Referendum Bill’). 

The Referendum Bill seeks to provide that if the Bill passes both houses of Parliament, prior to receiving asset, the Bill would be submitted to a referendum of electors for the House of Assembly. As in clause 2(2) of the Referendum Bill, the question to be put at the referendum would be:

"Do you approve the Retail Trading Bill 2021?"

The Current Retail Laws in South Australia 

The Treasurer outlined the details of South Australia’s current retail trading laws in his second reading speech, which included the following:

  • Trading hours must be different according to the floor size and location of a store;
  • Shops in Adelaide’s CBD must close by 5pm on Saturday;
  • Shops in the suburbs cannot open on public holidays at all, however, shops in the CBD can; and
  • On Sundays, shop trading hours are restricted to between the hours of 11am and 5pm.  

The Treasurer demonstrated the shortcomings of current laws by giving the following examples:

“The local IGA at Moana cannot open to serve the many beachgoers on summer nights after 5pm, so they go to the servo instead. A CBD clothing store can open on a public holiday, while the same brand store in Westfield Marion has to stay shut. Shops and shoppers in Stirling are subject to onerous regulations, but shops and shoppers down the freeway in Mount Barker are free to trade whenever they like”.

The Treasurer argued that in the “age of online shopping”, where shopping and trading can occur 24 hours a day, it is inconsistent for bricks and mortar stores to be subject to the current restrictions on trading that exist in South Australia.  

The Proposed Bill

The overarching aim of the Bill, according to the Treasurer, is to allow “freedom of choice for shoppers, freedom of choice for business and freedom of choice for all South Australians”. He continued:

“Whether you want to shop before you take the kids to school or after you finish work … whether you want to shop after five on a Saturday night or before 11 on a Sunday morning … whether you want to shop in the suburbs or in the CBD … whether you want to open up your business for longer hours or expand the floor size of your store, the government should not stand in the way of that”.

The Bill proposes to allow shop traders to open every day of the year, except Christmas Day, Good Friday and ANZAC Day before 12pm. The Bill would also allow traders to implement whatever daily trading hours they choose. The Bill also contains some exemptions for certain shops, including licensed premises, chemists, petrol stations, and cafes, among others.

The Referendum Bill 

The Referendum Bill proposes that the following question be posed to voters:

“Do you approve the Retail Trading Bill 2021?”

Both the Bill and the Referendum Bill would need to pass through Parliament. Should the Referendum Bill receive assent, a referendum would occur and electors would have to vote. Should the referendum return an overall “Yes” vote, the Bill would then be sent to the Governor General for assent.

The Treasurer highlighted the significance of the Bill by pointing out that the referendum would be the first state referendum for South Australia in over 30 years. He concluded by stating that the Marshall Liberal government, through this Bill, hopes to stand with South Australians “for more jobs, for a stronger economy and for freedom of choice”.

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Referendum (Retail Trading) Bill 2021 (SA) and explanatory materials available from TimeBase’s LawOne service.

Retail Trading Bill 2021 (SA) and explanatory materials available from TimeBase’s LawOne service.

‘South Australian government proposes referendum to deregulate shopping hours’ (ABC News, Eugene Boisvert & Natarsha Kallios, 11 May 2021)

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