THE Queensland Industrial Relations Commission has rejected an application for seven-day trading in Mount Isa.
The decision was made in a 27-page document, released on Monday, after the applicant – National Retailers Association – provided insufficient evidence of what benefits it would bring to the community.
The commission noted that the NRA provided no local witnesses while Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter, Mount Isa State Member Rob Katter, and local business owners gave testimony against Sunday trading.
The lack of public transport in Mount Isa was considered a significant factor in the decision, because many people in the outer suburbs were dependent on smaller stores like Foodworks.
“The type of factors which have arisen in this case are the town’s isolation; that the township does not in reality have a public transport system; the location of various convenience stores and the town’s weather,” the commission found.
“It is reasonable to take into consideration people living in Mount Isa where they might have to walk some distance in the heat to the city area were any of the local convenience stores outside of the city area to close as a consequence of a successful application.”
And small businesses owners did warn they might do so during the commission in Mount Isa last November.
Commission witness Jose Rivas warned he would be forced to close his two Foodworks businesses in Sunset and Turanga if the larger stores cut into his Sunday profits.
The findings acknowledged the submission made by Master Grocers Australia lawyer David Sztrajt – who submitted against Sunday trading in the commission - that tourism would not be affected by lack of Sunday trading.
“The evidence produced by NRA established that a significant number of tourists come to Mount Isa.
“There was no evidence, however, to show that these tourists needed to or wanted to shop on a Sunday.”
The commission said the Mount Isa City Council’s Tourism Strategy did not identify a need for extended trading hours.
But the council’s silence on the matter was noted, as was Commerce North West’s withdrawal from being heard in the commission.
“The local Council did not adopt a position on this application and consequently it is unknown as to what future tourism industries are contemplated.
“It is not mandatory for the Council to participate, but it would be mandatory for the Commission to consider the views of the local Council had those views been put to the commission.
“What might have been of assistance is the Council’s comments upon the current state of Mount Isa, traversing areas such as population growth, the state of the local economy.”
There were opportunities for more employment available if the larger stores were to be open on a Sunday, the commission found.
But this could be at the risk of reduction of employment in smaller businesses.
MOUNT Isa’s small businesses took a stand against corporate giants and won.
And this gave the small retail businesses hope, according to Member for Mount Isa Rob Katter.
The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission decided not to allow Sunday trading to large businesses like Coles and Woolworths.
“It’s so gratifying that people can take a stand against large supermarket giants and they can have a win every now and again,” Mr Katter said.
Mr Katter lobbied strongly against seven day trading when the application by the National Retailers Association was made last year.
His push for the commission to be held in Mount Isa last November instead of in Brisbane might also have contributed to the extension being denied, as local business owners were able to appear as witnesses.
The Mount Isa State Member acknowledged Sunday trading was not a safe issue for him to push before January’s state election, and that it was a view dividing the community.
“I would say a lot of younger people and people who weren’t fully informed on the issue would have felt strongly the other way but it’s one of those ones where I’m really confident of my position on it,” Mr Katter said.
“If you have any feeling at all for the city where you live, if you want any sort of future here I’d think we’d all land on the same place on this one and if we were fully aware of the implications of this.”
The NRA believed the decision was disappointing to shoppers and businesses owners of Mount Isa.
Director of External Relations Malcolm Cole said “if it had been successful, [it] would have brought it into line with other parts of the state.
“The needs of shoppers definitely have changed.
“Modern families are far less likely to have the time to do all their shopping on a Saturday.
“Retailers are simply reflecting what their customers are telling them.”
Grants Cakes & Pies owner Lee Grant said small businesses should continue to run without being burdened by the “big fellas”.
“This is our niche and it shouldn’t be imposed upon,” Mr Grant said.
Small businesses will need to adjust to the times which could be done by “modernising, upgrading the premises, and services”.
“Service is the biggest thing here for us, here in the centre (Colonial),” he said.
“We have a personalised service which is community based.
“That’s the one thing we’re proud of.”
LOCAL small businesses were still in hardship even with the decision of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission not to allow big businesses to trade on Sunday.
Mount Isa Mayor Tony McGrady believed struggling small businesses would suffer if large businesses were allowed to open seven days.
“I think we are an isolated community, not like big Chermside shopping centres,” he said.
“We haven’t reached that stage yet.”
The mayor acknowledged the Mount Isa City Council was criticised for remaining silent on the issue of Sunday trading during the commission.
The council chose instead to allow the community to lead the discussion.
Cr McGrady said there will be mixed reactions from councillors regarding the commission’s findings.
Just like the Mount Isa community, some councillors will rejoice and others will be disappointed.
He said it was likely there would be another push for Sunday trading within several years, and that small businesses should prepare for that.
But online shopping was a greater threat to the Mount Isa business community, Cr McGrady believed.
Commerce North West president Travis Crowther said the majority of the chamber’s members voted in support for seven day trading.
But the commission was a “fair and just process.”
“[There’s] not much the Chamber can do about it.”
It was unclear how much seven day trading would affect Mount Isa’s smaller businesses as the city had not previously allowed it, Mr Crowther said.
Commerce North West was intending on being heard on the first day of the commission, but due to a conflict of schedules, the chamber’s views were to be heard the following day.
Mr Crowther could not attend the second day of the commission and withdrew.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.