Judgement day for the Doctor

In the final episode of our series exploring the current and historical nature of regulation in South Australia, The Doctor makes her final defence against breaching the state’s shop trading laws.


by Visiting Research Fellow Darryl Gobbett in Conversation with SACES

Episode #7

[The afternoon session of the case SA vs The Doctor in regard the Shop Trading Hours Act 1977 begins. The Tardis had been restocked and the Judge has experienced its time and shape shifting capabilities with lunch at Aunt Mable’s.]

The Doctor: “Regarding the allegation of unlicensed selling of electricity to recharge motor vehicles, firstly there was no charge for the electricity as the Tardis has access to an unlimited and effectively zero cost energy source.

The electricity is supplied gratis to our customers. I understand some of the shops that benefit from the trading hours restrictions offer vouchers for discounted petrol.

Your Honour would agree, I am sure, that it would be a quite contradictory policy stance on the promotion of electric vehicles if some legislation was to prevent the provision of free electricity while other legislation on the restriction of trading hours assists certain shopkeepers to provide their customers with cheaper petrol.

Although I would also note the contradiction of policies aiming to increase the number of electric vehicles while other policies are boosting electricity prices to some of the highest on this planet and in most settled parts of the Universe.

In addition, no offence arises as the Shop Trading Hours Act is silent on the supply of electricity as a vehicle fuel. Presumably at some time this fuel will be added as a regulated item as is motor spirit and LNG.

Otherwise, specialist electricity charging stations not selling motor fuels or LNG would not be exempt shops for the purpose of the Act and so not able to sell the range of items after hours that current motor spirit retailers can.

Then the issue will arise of regulation of the supply of electricity such as by the charging of a vehicle at a neighbor’s home, just as Aunty Mable explained to you about the trade in unlicensed eggs in the 60s and 70s CE.”

 The Doctor: “If I may have the Court’s indulgence, I will now close with a comment on whether the actual intents of the Shop Trading Act 1977 are being met. As you, along with the learned Counsel opposite and the various politicians here today will know, the law is not about ethics, morality or even justice but the current interpretation and application of the legislators’ intent. I will also not deal with those issues of choice of when and how to shop or be open for business.

So is the legislation meeting those ends, or is it having perverse impacts such as did the egg legislation.”

[The Judge nodded as Aunty Mable passed her another piece of sponge.]

The Doctor: “If the intent is that retail staff in some shops selling certain goods should not have to work on Sundays then that end will be met. Does it mean those staff will not be working? From what I am informed, there is actually no follow up by SafeworkSA to ensure these people do not undertake other work and do attend places of worship, as the latter was one of the very original intents of this legislation a century ago.

In a multicultural state such as South Australia, it also begs the question as to whether this intent, while originally focused on Christian worship, should not also require the prohibited hours to extend to cover the hours of worship of other faiths.

On the issue of intent of some people in some shops not working on Sundays, my experience is that remote shopping, smart phone capable fitting algorithms, additive manufacturing and drone deliveries from warehouses or shops outside the metropolitan area will allow people to shop and receive the goods in real time. And return the goods free of charge if not suitable. And they will be likely shopping from the post hipster eateries allowed to be open.

So, it may in time be questionable if the jobs not able to be filled in the prohibited hours will continue to exist. Perhaps the legislation will then be changed to stop the algorithms and robots packing the drones from working on Sundays or after hours in the metropolitan area. And will the prohibition be extended to the borders of SA in case the drones can fly in from outside the metropolitan area?

Regarding the intent to stop people from shopping on Sundays so they should have time for rest and worship, this seems to not being met. This is in view of the other terrestrial shops that can now trade in the metropolitan area; the employment at sporting and other cultural events, including gambling, that once were not allowed on Sundays; and the online shopping that now occurs and increasingly for those goods prohibited from being sold.

Will the legislators be making it illegal to shop online at those stores that cannot open terrestrial stores on Sundays?

I understand another intent was, analogous to the egg legislation’s intended protection of small producers, was to protect the small locally owned shopkeepers from the competitive advantages of the nationally owned large supermarkets and department stores. But the legislation deals with the size of the shopping areas allowed, not the commercial size of the shopkeeper. So, a global or intergalactic enterprise, such as Timelords Inc, can trade in the prohibited hours as long as it meets the individual shop floor space limitations. And that could well bring self-service technologies to bear that would require very few staff in any case.

In the case of SA, I am reliably informed, the small individual supermarket shopkeepers have lost ground to franchised stores and increasingly large locally owned multi store businesses.

In addition, the special rules put in place for motor spirit retailers that allow them to now sell all manner of goods effectively 24 hours a day also put them at a competitive advantage to the individual small shopkeeper.

And so, this intent of protecting the small individual shopkeeper also seems to not being met.

Not meeting three intents seems very bad law and or implementation.

I therefore rest my case”.

[The Judge looked up.]

The Judge: “This is South Australia in the 21st century not some rational utopia as originally planned by some. Guilty on all counts.”

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