Buy Buy Christmas

Karin Sowada

There is always a sense of relief in my household when the clock ticks past 5pm on Christmas Eve. By that time, the retail frenzy of Christmas is over and one’s mind can start to relax as the holiday season truly begins.

But for some hapless workers, that may be about to change.

The NSW State Government is currently examining proposals to de-regulate shop trading hours on restricted days such as Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and the morning of Anzac Day.

These are designated public holidays and under current rules, shops are required to be closed, or operate on certain days under restricted trading licenses (the latter allows city department stores to open on Boxing Day and after 1pm on Anzac Day, for example). The overall result is a legal presumption of a retail shutdown across the state on key public holidays, with some automatic exemptions for small shops and the granting of other restricted exemptions. The law surrounding retail trading in NSW is complex and each State has its own regulations.

In September, the Minister for Finance and Services, Greg Pearce MP, announced an inquiry into shop trading provisions and invited submissions, which closed on 24 October. A key part of this inquiry involved an examination of ‘a reduction in the number of restricted trading days under s. 4 of the [Retail Trading] Act.’

It is evident from reading the Inquiry Discussion Paper that there is a great openness to the possibility of further extending trading hours into what has traditionally been times of community and family rest. This is particularly true for Boxing Day and Easter Sunday. The report reveals that city retailers are big on seeking exemptions already. There is also pressure from the tourism industry to ensure that Sydney can deliver a 24/7 retail and entertainment experience for visitors.

From a Christian and broader social perspective, these are troubling developments. All in the name of creating employment and business opportunity.

There is no question that Sydney has become a global city. Easter and Christmas are both peak holiday times for local and overseas visitors. But setting time aside for community rest is a social good and ensures that people are not pressured by employers to work. As a church we would want to ensure this time of community rest and reflection is preserved, and that the Christian message of these periods is not lost in more displays of unnecessary mass consumption. Moreover, the further extension of trading is a form of bracket creep; in time there will be inevitable calls for trading on Good Friday. At that point, why bother with Easter holidays at all?

There are plenty of days for shopping and going about one’s business in the rest of the year. In addition, the enthusiasm with which Australians have adopted internet shopping means that the store-based retail experience has less appeal anyway. An enforced break from this activity does everyone good, whether people believe in 'the reason for the season’ or not.


(Banner Photo: Aphexlee)