Holiday trading not just a religious issue in NSW

Posted Mar 13, 2014 by Nicole Weddington
Tensions are building in NSW over the issue of shopping on public holidays which some argue should be observed with the closure of businesses.
Religious ministers, along with union representatives, are appealing to Premier Barry O'Farrell to ensure that hours of operation for retailers will not be expanded to allow operating on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Anzac Day or Boxing Day. Opponents to the issue cite that there is no evidence to suggest any significant economic advantage to opening on these days. They further argue that post-holiday sales are a perennial success and are more than capable of covering any shortfall created by closure on days like Boxing Day.
Reverend Keith Garner of the Wesley Mission explained that the issue revolves primarily around families having uninterrupted time to spend together on these days. "We are only talking about four and a half days that we want to preserve," he said. Garner further commented that the issue is primarily achieving a balance between the the rights of retailers to conduct business on holidays with the freedom for employees of those businesses to spend time with family and friends.
"I also think this is an acid test for how important the Christian faith is in our community," Garner said. He appealed to government leaders to consider every individual's religious freedom. “Good Friday and Easter Day are critical days on the Christian calendar," he said.
He did not indicate whether he'd be seeking compensation over the issue, by resorting to lawyers.
Ministers from various Christian denominations including Catholic, Anglican, Baptist and Uniting churches signed an open letter to O'Farrell. They presented the letter to Fred Nile, leader of Christian Democrats.
Several secular organisations also signed the letter, including the aforementioned Wesley Union, the Shop Distributive and the Allied Employees Association.
Mr. Nile expressed his commitment to opposing plans by the state government to extend retail trading hours to include Boxing Day. In an address to outside NSW Parliament to the delegation on Wednesday, Niles expressed concern that doing so would be considered precedent for applying further extensions on days like Easter Sunday.
Treasurer Mike Baird is nonetheless committed to the extensions of trading hours. The extensions, he argues, would allow the same rules applied in other states to extend to NSW. “It makes no sense that around a third of the state can trade on Boxing Day following exemptions for 'tourist trading precincts' approved by previous governments, but the rest cannot," he said. He further called for a “modernisation of retail trading laws,” stating that, in NSW, such updates are overdue.
Gerard Dwyer is the branch secretary in NSW for the Allied Employees Association and the Shop Distributive. He stated that workers have voiced concern over the federal government introducing uniform trading hours nationwide. He argued that the ability to be with one's family and friends on these days is at the core of the matter. He went on to say that, "The economic case has not been made for opening trade on Easter Sunday. We can have good post-Christmas sales on December 27.”
The operation of retailers on holidays in NSW is an issue that hits hard on both religious and secular fronts.