Voice of Real Australia: Sunday, bloody Sunday

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Businessman Bob Burow and MP Robbie Katter want to continue the ban on Sunday trading in Mount Isa for the likes of Coles and Woolies.

Businessman Bob Burow and MP Robbie Katter want to continue the ban on Sunday trading in Mount Isa for the likes of Coles and Woolies.

All-weekend trading is a given for most parts of Australia.

Yet for 23 regional centres in Queensland, including Mount Isa, the doors of Coles and Woolies remain firmly closed on Sundays.

As someone who often works on Saturdays and would like the convenience of shopping on Sunday, it is a downright pain in the Aldi.

But being less selfish about it; the situation, as always, is more complex.

The anomaly is due to a Queensland government decision in 2017 when freeing up trading hours. With an active campaign against change in some regional centres, the Palaszczuk government put the problem in the too-hard basket and deferred any changes to the current regime in regional centres until 2022.

But now 2022 is just around the corner and the Queensland government needs to look at the matter again. It used the time-honoured tactic of sending the matter to parliamentary review with hearings across the state.

By delicious coincidence the Mount Isa review into Sunday trading was held on a Sunday night and despite it being well past my bedtime I joined many eager locals who had their say on the matter.

First up was local MP and KAP leader Robbie Katter who came down squarely in the "no change" camp.

The Queensland parliament holds a Mount Isa hearing on Sunday trading...on a Sunday.

The Queensland parliament holds a Mount Isa hearing on Sunday trading...on a Sunday.

He said many small businesses relied on their Sunday trading margins to survive and the money they made stayed local.

A fair point, but some heavy-hitters including the local council, the chamber of commerce and the tourism association all lobbed up in disagreement.

Council and the chamber surveyed residents finding overwhelming support for change among 1400 responses.

Council said Sunday trading would revitalise the city centre while the chamber said people in outlying shires relied on Mount Isa for shopping and if Sunday trading was available they would make a weekend of it, staying in a motel, having dinner and maybe taking in a movie.

The tourism association made the point there is no other large supermarkets between Charters Towers and Alice Springs, a distance of 1600km, and again people would stay longer in town if they had the option.

But then came local business operators who make their margins in the shadow of Coles and Woolies' Sunday closure.

The local Brumby's franchisee said she made 20 per cent of her profit on Sunday while local supermarket owner Bob Burow said Sunday was "his little piece of the pie".

Before you scoff at whether we should be providing sheltered workshops for small business, consider other market failures impacting Mr Burow's operation.

Last month he learned 70 per cent of his bread would no longer be transported to Mount Isa.

Is the bread Helgas? Not in Mount Isa it ain't anymore.

Manufacturing giant Goodman Fielder (who make brands Helga, Wonder and Praise among others) has pulled a number of its bread ranges from Queensland's northwest citing high transport costs. D'ough!

So who are we to say the market should be left to its own devices? By that light, half of regional Australia would close down, with banks itching to ditch uneconomic branches.

The "can do capitalism" so beloved of our PM, works only where there are big customer bases on offer, small supply chains and economies of scale - none of which apply in many regional communities.

Shareholder-driven executives staring at spreadsheets in Sydney couldn't give a flying fig about the survival of country towns.

As they do with subsidised transport to regional centres, governments continue to intervene to save our small towns across the land. If that means I have to wait till Monday to get my cornflakes then that's a price I'll pay.

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