Way back in 1990 was when I made my first trip to Cairns on an east coast sojourn. The subsequent year I migrated to Queensland from an only slightly more southern state. At that time a prominent local business in Emerald attempted to secure its monopoly on local tyre supply with a new mining development by displaying, a 'keep out not wanted here' sign to all new employees who had come to work in the largest underground coal resource development in Australia, and where Queenslanders had limited skill depth and experience.
I recall my first weekend voyage into Rockhampton subsequent to migration. I was confused. Why were all the shops in the largest shopping centre pulling down their shutters at lunchtime on a Saturday? Well, that was Queensland apparently and it was for the good of our local economy and the virtue of decrepit undercapitalised independent retail outlets with a stock range less than the expectations of the average consumer, or possibly even the proprietors themselves.
Roll on twenty-three years and things have changed in Queensland, not much. Unlike less fortunate locations in the state as an international tourist centre we privileged in the Cairns CBD can now decadently buy lamb chops right up until 9pm of a Sunday night. Almost unthinkable in Joh's day. Well most days we can, but yesterday was Cairns Show day.
A fine day it was too. An evening walk and a pleasant view to take in the ambience and then a detour through the local CBD Woolworths to gather supplies for the nights culinary adventure. But what? The door was blocked by security at 5.30pm right in the middle of the evening tourist rush attempting to stem the flow of shoppers. Was it a terrorist threat or perhaps a mass shooting I asked? No, it was Queensland shopping laws.
The unpatriotic disgrace of consumers attempting to consume on Cairns Show day! How dare they! Why weren't they doing the proper thing and attending the show to smell cattle faeces, observe prize-winning sugar cane varieties, or partake of a dagwood dog?
A group of Chinese tourists appeared particularly confused and only my heroic intervention prevented a riot overwhelming the security man and looting of the entire stock of homebrand milk powder at the CBD Woolworths!*
Queensland open for business while tossing tourists out of shops? Cutting red tape? Give me a break, surely even an Ass Tourism Minister wouldn't swallow that when it comes to shopping regulation?
Note: Queensland Economy Watch has been a keen advocate for reform of retail regulation.