Public Holidays Amendment Bill 2019 – Second Reading Debate

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ACTING SPEAKER: The Member for Wendouree.

Ms ADDISON: Thank you Acting Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of the Public Holidays Amendment Bill 2019. This is an important bill for Victorians. It makes provision for certain public holidays, they being Easter Sunday, the Friday before the AFL Grand Final and Christmas Day when it falls on a Saturday or a Sunday. The Andrews Labor government committed at the 2014 and 2018 elections to enshrine in legislation the aforementioned public holidays. I am proud to be supporting this legislation, which delivers on those election commitments. I would really like to thank the Minister for Local Government and Minister for Small Business for presenting this bill. I also thank the former minister in the 58th Parliament for his work on preparing the bill.

The Public Holidays Amendment Bill is another example of how the Andrews Labor government is living its values and delivering on its commitments to Victorians. This legislation enshrines arrangements that are already in place, so in effect we are locking in the status quo. By enshrining the public holidays of Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and Grand Final Friday in law, we are also helping to protect the penalty rates of thousands of Victorian workers who are required to work on these days. I believe that days like Christmas Day are times to spend with family, friends and the people you love, but if you do have a job that requires you to work on that special day, your pay should recognise that sacrifice. It is only fair.

I would really like to take this opportunity to recognise the many people in our community who do work on public holidays and who work unsociable hours to protect us, to keep us safe, to care for us and to provide emergency services. Your contribution is so important, and I thank you for your service. Without enshrining Christmas Day as a public holiday in law, under another government it could mean that when Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, which it will in a couple of years, Victorians like nurses, like firefighters and like police officers would not get paid penalty rates but their colleagues who would then work on the substitute Monday would, and that is not fair. Whilst there have been critics of these arrangements since they have been put in place, Victoria, as previous speakers have clearly explained, has become the fastest growing economy. So we have got our levers right in terms of workers’ rights, productivity and support for small business. We have got a really good mix, and that is why our economy is strong. This is a government that supports working Victorians. However, the public holidays we enjoy have only been enacted by gazettal; to date they are not law. This makes it easier to reverse them so that they impact on important family time and work-life balance and prevent many who do work on those days from being compensated for it. We know that these public holidays could be up for grabs; we have experienced it all before. The member for Bayswater was just talking about his DeLorean experience, back to 1993, but I am a bit older than the member for Bayswater. I was at uni in 1993 when Jeff Kennett was elected, and I remember Easter Saturday, Easter Tuesday and Melbourne Show Day being taken away from the Victorian community.

It is also important to note that the Public Holidays Act 1993 does not interact with the Shop Trading Reform Act 1996. Therefore this bill is not going to impact Victorian shop trading hours, which are defined as ‘ordinary shop closing times’ in the Shop Trading Reform Act. As the daughter of a small business owner, we need to provide shop owners and small business operators with certainty, so let us be really clear. Victoria’s restricted trading days will continue to only be Christmas Day, Good Friday and Anzac Day until 1.00 p.m., but the other days are not impacted.

As many of you know, I am a history teacher, so I really like to have a think about where these public holidays come from. Why do we have them? What do these public holidays represent? If you think about the 13 public holidays we celebrate in Victoria, it really does give some insights into our cultural values as a society as well as reflecting historical events that are significant to us as a state and as a nation. These are important days that should be enshrined in law, and this is what we are going to do.

We start the year by welcoming in the New Year on 1 January with a public holiday, and a few weeks later we enjoy another public holiday as we mark Australia Day, although this is now quite contentious. Labour Day falls on the second Monday in March in honour of the movement for better working conditions and the 1856 campaign by the stonemasons at the University of Melbourne for an 8-hour working day. On the anniversary of Gallipoli in 1915 we honour not only the service of the Anzacs in the Great War but all the Australian men and women who have served our nation in times of war and peace. We celebrate the Queen’s Birthday as a public holiday on the second Monday in June, in recognition of our sovereign’s birthday, although some republicans like me might prefer that we had a separate celebration for something else about us as a nation.

In Melbourne and other parts of Victoria, on the first Tuesday in November there is a public holiday for the race that stops a nation—the Melbourne Cup. I note that in Ballarat we have previously enjoyed a public holiday for the Ballarat Cup, but in more recent years the City of Ballarat has nominated Ballarat show day in November for our public holiday.

Reflecting the Christian traditions of many Australians, we mark the most significant Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter with public holidays. However, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday are not properly protected, and no matter what your faith, or if you have no religion at all, these are great days when you can celebrate with your family and spend time with your friends. The changes that we will introduce with this bill will allow Victorians from across the state the time to celebrate these important dates in our calendar with family and friends. These public holidays are a reflection of many of the traditional values and what contributes to who we are. Therefore what a great idea it is to also have a public holiday on the Friday before the AFL Grand Final, in the state that is the home of Aussie Rules.

The Andrews Labor government is proud to support Grand Final Friday. But it is not just for footy fans; it is a chance for Victorians to spend time with family and friends, and a big boost for businesses and tourism operators across our state. For those Victorians who are required to work, we will look after you too. The legislation will protect it as a public holiday in law.

I am certainly looking forward to Grand Final Friday this year. I will be attending this year’s grand final parade with Mike, Jo and Sophia to cheer on our Geelong Cats on the eve of this year’s grand final. I cannot think of a better way to spend the last Friday than watching all the Cats coming up Collins Street on the night before they win the flag. I am sure, as was suggested by the member for Bulleen, that Melbourne could be a ghost town on that day, but I am actually a bit more worried about Geelong being a ghost town, as tens of thousands of passionate supporters make their way up the highway to Melbourne to support the mighty Cats.

Working families want certainty about their work rosters, to make holiday plans and manage their work-life balance. These amendments will assist those people by allowing greater certainty for Victorians around their work rosters and in planning their holidays for the forthcoming year.

I have always enjoyed working and having a job, and I believe that public holidays are very important to working Victorians. This bill enshrines in law three public holidays: Easter Sunday, Grand Final Friday and Christmas Day. While I was at school and at university I particularly loved working in retail as a casual and as a part-timer when I was a member of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association. My retail work included working at Thomas Jewellers at Ballarat, as an Easter casual at Darrell Lea at Chadstone and as a long-term part-timer at Myer Melbourne for five years. My part-time contracted hours of work at Myer were across Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Easter Sunday was not a public holiday; therefore I was required to work as per my contract. So while my family in Ballarat celebrated Easter together, I was required to be at work in Melbourne. I believe that making Easter Sunday a public holiday is important to allow many Victorians to celebrate Easter with their families and friends. I think this is fair and reasonable.

I am proud to support the Public Holidays Amendment Bill 2019, as this legislation will give working people certainty in the future as we enshrine Easter Sunday, the Friday before the AFL Grand Final and Christmas Day when it falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, making sure they are permanently protected. Hardworking Victorians do deserve these holidays. In 2014 and again in 2018 we promised to lock these public holidays in, so I am so pleased to be one of the 55 members of this government and to have the opportunity to deliver another election commitment to our community. I commend the bill to the house.