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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 10 Hansard (5 September) . . Page.. 3200 ..


Debate resumed.

MR WHITECROSS (Leader of the Opposition) (5.40): Mr Speaker, this is legislation that we should not be debating today. The Liberals have used every sledge-hammer tactic in the book in order to ram through a piece of legislation which does not need to be debated now and which is completely unnecessary. They have suspended standing orders in order to bring on a Bill which they introduced only this morning and which they circulated only yesterday in a different form. They have declared it an urgent Bill and they have reduced the time allotted, so that the Assembly cannot properly debate this matter.

Mr Speaker, there is no excuse, no excuse whatsoever, for what the Government has done. The explanation, and it is not an excuse, Mr Speaker, is that they want to cover their own embarrassment over what has been a fiasco from start to finish. The Government was wrong in closing town centre supermarkets at great cost to the consumers of Canberra, and it did so for no policy benefit. Mr Speaker, what they are doing with this Bill is seeking once again to stop town centre supermarkets from offering to their customers a way of shopping after 7 o'clock at night.

Mr Wood: Stopping private enterprise.

MR WHITECROSS: Stopping private enterprise. Exactly. This is the Government which talked about being open for business, but not if you are a supermarket, Mr Speaker. If you are a business that wants to set up a supermarket bigger than 400 square metres in a town centre and offer a product to the public that the public want to buy, namely, late night trading, what does this Government do? It says, "Never mind that you have customers flowing through the doors saying, `Yes, we want this product'; never mind that you have made a commercial decision that it is worth your while to open and there are customers there to service. Never mind all that". This Government says that it is open for business, but actions speak louder than words. No, you are not. You are closed. That is what this is about.

We are here today to debate a Bill which is simply designed to block off one more avenue for businesses in this town to offer a service to their customers; nothing more, nothing less.

Mr Stefaniak: Rubbish!

MR WHITECROSS: Mr Stefaniak says, "Rubbish", but that just shows how little he understands about this Bill. This Bill is completely nonsensical, Mr Speaker. As we all know, what we are doing today is blocking off Coles. Coles got extensive mention in Mr Humphries's introductory speech.

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