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Convenient Living

It occured to me how sometimes small things can make a big difference to Jewish living. 

It has never been easier to be an observant Jew in Perth.  The availability of social connections, food, facilities and amenities, all of those things that contribute to good Jewish living, is something that cannot be taken for granted in other small Jewish communities, even those comparable in size to our own.

Today it was even easier to be Jewish in Perth for two small reasons. 

The first, is that there will be a Council greenwaste collection in Dianella/Yokine over the next week.  Why should that matter?  Well, as I dismantled my Succah today I simply placed a couple of dozen sundried palm fronds (that Bnei Akiva kindly delivered to my home before Chag), onto the street verge.  No need to drive to the tip, or to find alternate means of disposing of used schach that generally involves stabbing your hands with pine thistles.  No doubt the choice of date by Council was coincidently convenient, as opposed to carefully designed to cater for the ethnic sensitivies of a small number of homes (any guess of between 50 and 100 Succahs constructed within the collection area).  Either way, what could be better than a free greenwaste collection service the first weekend after Succot?  Where else in the world does your Schach get cleared by the municipal authority at no additional cost?

The second reason it was better to be Jewish in Perth today is that Morley Galleria was open for trade.  For those unfamiliar with Perth, this city has archaic and anti-competitive trading restrictions, that are a matter of controversy across the board.  At the last vote, 60% of the population favoured regulated trading hours, and the balance voted  for reform.  The reality is that small businesses can open, but (with the exception of the City where it is impossible to park) there are no serious shopping opportunities for this City on a regular Sunday.  In this day in age it defies belief that a business can be told by the Government when it is or isn’t allowed to open, based on the size of its employee base. 

Is there a Jewish position on this issue?  Surprisingly there are two.  The first is the altruistic stance that Jews invented the concept of Sabbath, and even if the day differs, it does no harm to build a society on the principles of a day free of commercial trade, where it is sanctioned that families can rest, spend time together, and enjoy parks, gardens and public open space.

The second view is that working Jewish families that do not have time to shop during regular business hours are left with the solitary option of Thursday night to do their weekly grocery run.  At a societal level, the freedom of choice as to when and how households construct their aforementioned family time should be open and flexible.  Deregulated shopping hours do not necessitate retailers working longer, in as much as they open up greater opportunities for employment, and spur economic growth through accelerated spending.

Judging by the crowds at the shopping mall today, an open day ostensibly for Telethon (but aside from a clown, face painter and two songs on a stage you would not have known it), the people of Perth vote with their feet.  As an aside,  I wonder how many people there today were hypocritical “no” voters?  Certainly there were a large number of Jewish shoppers out and about today, and the convenience of being able to use Sunday for retail therapy was greatly appreciated. 

It is only a matter of time before common sense prevails.  However in the meantime, I’m happy to campaign on behalf of those Jewish residents in Perth that favour unrestricted Sunday trading. 

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