Retailers welcome WA’s tougher penalties for assaults on retail workers

Australia’s peak retail body, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), has welcomed the Western Australian Government’s plans to introduce legislation to implement tougher penalties for people who assault or abuse retail workers.

The landmark reforms, being introduced to Parliament this week, will see Western Australia join the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales leading the way in legislating in response to the growing prevalence of customer aggression and assaults.

ARA CEO Paul Zahra said the ARA has long advocated for these reforms to protect retail workers and urged the remaining states and the ACT to follow suit.

“All retail workers, whether they’re a casual in their first job or doing the night shift at the local convenience store, have a right to feel safe at work,” Mr Zahra said.

“No one deserves to be spat on, threatened with weapons, intimidated or harassed for simply doing their job. People who engage in these types of behaviours are committing a crime – it’s a simple as that.

“Actions speak louder than words, and we’re extremely pleased that Premier Roger Cook has responded to our views, our member’s views and the SDA, and, more importantly, the needs of retail workers by taking strong action to deter these violent incidents and keep our retail staff safe.

“We’re mindful that the majority of customers are respectful and do the right thing, but the small minority are making retail a dangerous environment to work in.

“Recognition and thanks must also go to SDA secretary Ben Harris for his significant work and collaboration on this issue.”

Mr Zahra also praised WA Police for their collaboration with retailers including more targeted policing operations to protect retail precincts.

“Our retailers can’t tackle this alone – they need the assistance of the police to help catch these criminals. In turn our police need the justice system to take these new laws seriously and use them,” said Mr Zahra.

“We have advocated for tougher penalties for a good reason – we think if enforced the new tougher penalties will help businesses immensely and reduce the pressure on police.

“This initiative will be warmly welcomed by our retail community. With this new legislation we are sending a strong message that this behaviour won’t be tolerated.”

The legislation will see the maximum penalty for assaulting a retail worker will be increased from 18 months’ jail and $18,000 fine to seven years imprisonment or three years and a fine of $36,000, as a summary offence.

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