Retailers’ thumbs down to Anzac Day trading ban

Most NSW retailers will be banned from trading on Anzac Day under the new rules.

Most NSW retailers will be banned from trading on Anzac Day under the new rules.

Australian retailers have reacted with “concern” at NSW plans to ban major retailers, including supermarkets, from Anzac Day trading.

The Minns government announced the plan on Wednesday, saying it hoped to encourage more people to commemorate veterans on the April 25 holiday.

Across NSW, shops have previously been allowed to open at 1pm. Under the changes, which extend to supermarkets, they will be banned throughout the day.

There is no change for businesses with existing exemptions – including cafes, restaurants, chemists and newsagencies.

The ban has the backing of the NSW RSL and the retail workers’ union. Premier Chris Minns said it was appropriate because Anzac Day was Australia’s most “solemn and significant” occasion.

“[We] will extend our retail trading restrictions across Anzac Day, to make sure our veterans are recognised and free to take part in services throughout the day,” he said.

“It might be inconvenient for a few hours, but closing our biggest corporate shops for a single day is a small price to pay for living in a free and open democracy.”

But the Australian Retailers Association is against the idea. Chief executive Paul Zahra acknowledged the significance of Anzac Day for Australians.

“Rather than detracting from Anzac Day commemorations, retailers support community activities and consumer needs. Changing this legislation will not change the way Australians come together on this important day,” he said.

Zahra said the ARA – which made a submission to the NSW government’s consultation on the change – felt the existing rules struck the right balance “without putting more restrictions on retailers at a time when the sector is doing it tough”.

“While we are relieved to see that small businesses such as cafes, restaurants and chemists are exempt, larger retailers including essential retailers such as supermarkets, electrical, hardware and department stores selling winter necessities will be affected,” he said.

“Shoppers still require food and supplies on public holidays, which is why we view larger retailers as essential service providers, particularly in regional and remote locations.

“Data from our membership shows consumers in NSW would like the option to shop for food and other essentials on Anzac Day and did so in higher volumes in the opening hours of trade after 1pm.”

Zahra also pointed out that retail workers would miss out on public holiday rates due to the 24-hour closure.

Anzac Day trading restrictions vary across Australia, with NSW’s plans for a total ban already matched in Western Australia.

Victoria and Queensland allow trading from 1pm, Tasmania does from 12.30pm. South Australia allows it only in the Adelaide CBD between midday and 5pm.

The ACT and the Northern Territory have no restrictions.

RSL NSW president Mick Bainbridge said the pastoral needs of veterans were too often overlooked.

“This is an opportunity for them to take time away from work on this special day to commemorate their service,” he said.

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during World War I, in Gallipoli in 1915.

The day is features a host of traditions, including dawn and sunset services, veteran marches, and wreath-laying ceremonies.

-with AAP

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