PUBLIC HOLIDAYS AMENDMENT BILL 2011 – Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Posted on 15. Jun, 2011 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I am very happy to rise to contribute to debate on the Public Holidays Amendment Bill 2011. Currently councils can apply to the Minister for Innovation, Services and Small Business to substitute another day as a public holiday in lieu of Melbourne Cup Day. If a council does not do so, the default position is that Melbourne Cup Day applies as a public holiday in that municipality.

This bill has a couple of main provisions. It allows councils to apply to the minister for small business to have a substitute public holiday apply in only part of their municipality. Therefore it would be possible to have two or more different public holidays in one municipality. The bill also allows for the substitute public holiday to be split across two different days. In the second‑reading speech for the bill the minister for small business explained the rationale for these measures was ‘flexibility’. I have been here long enough to know that whenever the Liberal Party uses the expression ‘flexibility’ it is usually code for attacking and cutting the conditions of workers and their families.

Indeed the Liberal Party has form when it comes to public holiday arrangements and their impact on families — for example, its refusal to preserve Easter Sunday as a public holiday. When last in government, over seven and a half years the coalition abolished two public holidays, show day and Easter Tuesday. Nothing the Liberal Party does on public holidays should be considered benign.

I would like to draw the house’s attention to the fact that at its state conference last Saturday, in an urgent motion moved by the secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, Michael Donovan, the Australian Labor Party resolved to oppose this bill. Members can imagine how concerned the union is that this will affect the working conditions of its more than 50 000 members, most of whom are shop assistants.

Let us examine the two main provisions in this bill. Firstly, there is the fact that different parts of a municipality may have different public holidays. An obvious implication is that a different public holiday could apply to people within the one family depending on where the individuals work or go to school. The shadow minister for small business went through this detail already. We are not necessarily talking about rural towns 100 kilometres apart. The minister for small business used the example of Jeparit and Rainbow in her second‑reading speech. For goodness sake, those two towns are only 30 kilometres apart. They share the one football club in the Mallee Football League, the Jeparit‑Rainbow Football Club. That team has been in the league since 1997 following the merger of the separate Jeparit and Rainbow clubs in 1996, but by the minister’s reckoning the two towns may well have different public holidays.

The second provision in the bill relates to the splitting of public holidays so that a town or community can have a half‑day cup day and a half‑day show day. An important consideration in providing workers with recreation and leisure time is that it be provided under suitable arrangements, whether for families maximising their time together or for individual workers having a decent break from the job. This is best achieved by a whole day’s break rather than a few hours off the job with the worker still having to travel to and from work and to work some hours on the same day. That was the model for reduced working hours such as the 38‑hour week — that is, that it provided additional days off.

I say that two into one does not go. Let us not forget why we have a bill which is trying to create both a cup day and a show day by making two public holidays out of one. The reason is that when they were last in government the minister for small business and her party abolished the show day holiday. As I said earlier, the government has form when it comes to public holidays. Without its earlier actions, communities could have both a whole‑day cup day and a whole‑day show day. If there is a push on from agricultural societies for public holidays for their events, the Liberal Party should have the honesty to say it made a policy decision to abolish the show day holiday.

Despite changes in our work and life patterns these days Sundays and public holidays remain important days for families. In fact because of the change in the pace of living they are even more important in providing families with valuable leisure time to spend together. That should be the starting point for how we view Sundays and public holidays. At the same time we recognise that for many low‑paid workers who have to work on these days penalty rates are critical in providing not big pay packets but wages on which they can survive.


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