Retail trading hours were extended to allow all stores in New South Wales to trade on Saturday afternoons. This largely benefited the major stores and big supermarket chains, as small retailers were already deregulated. Progress towards deregulated retail trading hours has varied from state to state, with Western Australia remaining the most regulated.
A review of retail trading hours by the National Competition Council in 2003 said the following:
Historically, governments have restricted shop trading hours for reasons including observing the Sabbath, protecting small businesses from competition from larger competitors and reducing the need for shop employees to work outside traditional working hours. Pressure to change laws restricting trading hours has arisen from a range of sources, including retail business owners and consumer groups. Changing social and work patterns — such as increasing numbers of dual-income households and more flexible and longer working hours — are a significant driver of reform. All governments, except the Northern Territory (which has no legislation that specifically regulates trading hours), included trading hours legislation on their legislation review programs.
Legislative restrictions on competition
At the commencement of the National Competition Policy (NCP) legislation review program, shop trading hours varied significantly across Australia. Jurisdictions (other than the Northern Territory) had various arrangements, including designated days for late night shopping and restrictions on Sunday trading. Often, central city and tourist shopping precincts had fewer restrictions than those in suburban and rural areas, and discrimination frequently occurred between retail outlets according to their size or the product they sold. Restrictions prevent consumers from shopping at convenient times, and they prevent businesses that might benefit from extended trading hours (including major retailers, national specialty chains, franchisees and many small businesses) from opening. Many of these restrictions have been removed following reviews that found they did not provide a net public benefit.