Shopaholics be damned, Boxing Day is for families
As our television screens start filling with the sounds of Christmas films, a real-life, modern day version of the classic tale A Christmas Carol is playing out in State Parliament.
In the NSW Parliamentary version of this tale the role of Ebenezer Scrooge is played by Premier Barry O’Farrell, with supporting roles played by a host of big retailers.
In keeping with the original version of the story, our Scrooges seem to be out to do one thing - ruin Christmas. Their cunning plan? Open all shops on Boxing Day so workers and their families across NSW miss out on the tradition of Christmas.
What better way to kill off the spirit of Christmas than to open shop doors and take thousands of workers away from their families to stock shelves and sell cheap toasters?
Our modern version even comes complete with its own catchphrases. Instead of ‘bah humbug’ like in the classic, our modern day Scrooges go for the slightly less catchy, but equally overused phrases ‘economic benefit’ and “we live in a 24/7 economy”.
The unfortunate part is that unlike the original tale, this one isn’t fictional.
There is a Bill which was introduced by the O’Farrell Government currently sitting in the Upper House of State Parliament that, if passed, would see legislation introduced that would effectively wipe Boxing Day and Easter Sunday off the list of restricted trading days.
Our Scrooges will have successfully managed to leave us with just two and a half days a year free from the commercial interests of retailers – only Christmas Day, Good Friday and the morning of Anzac Day and even those days would not be safe from this law.
Their arguments for opening shop doors on Boxing Day across the whole state centre around supposed ‘consumer demand’ and their classic catchphrase ‘economic benefit’.
In fact, there is nothing to suggest that people want extended trading hours. A crowd of a few hundred shopaholics outside a couple of Sydney CBD shops in a city of over more than 4.5 million people does not constitute “high consumer demand” and the most recent broad, transparent survey conducted on whether retail trading hours should be further deregulated was in Western Australia in 2005 where the State held a Referendum that saw 59 per cent of people vote against extending to even Sunday trading.
That’s because people don’t live in a “24/7 economy”, they live in a community with families and friends. The glue of those communities is not consumer goods or consumer “experiences”, but rather shared time together.
Recent research also shows that despite out Scrooges’ repeated suggestions otherwise, there is no benefit to the economy in opening stores on Boxing Day or Easter Sunday. People are not suddenly gifted extra cash to spend in stores on December 26th. All it does is spread the same amount of money that people have to spend across the month.
But clearly our Scrooges are intent on not letting the truth get in the way of their story.
Of course it won’t be the Premier or other MPs working the registers on Boxing Day. It will be the retail worker who would normally travel to spend Christmas with her family, but won’t be able to this year.
It will be the father who misses out on the family trip to the beach on Boxing Day and the teenager who has to choose between spending Christmas with her father or her mother because she usually spends Christmas Day with one and Boxing Day with the other.
Christmas and Boxing Day are about family, friends and community. It’s about getting out and having a game of backyard cricket, eating leftover ham, volunteering, celebrating your religion, flicking between the Boxing Day Test and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. It shouldn’t be about the commercial interests of a select few retailers.
Our shops are open 362 and a half days a year. Christmas and Boxing Day come around just once a year. No matter their age, religion or career choice, NSW families should to be able to celebrate that time together.
At the end of A Christmas Carol, the family of Scrooge’s overworked clerk helps Scrooge finally see the beauty of Christmas. Let’s hope that a bit of Christmas magic descends on State Parliament over the coming weeks and our Scrooges see the error of their ways and leave Boxing Day as it should be – a family time, free from the commercial interests of big business.
After all, Christmas isn’t Christmas without Boxing Day.
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