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Speech: Christmas Day Should Be A Public Holiday

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This year, Christmas Day, 25 December, falls on a Saturday. That is why today I introduce this bill into the state parliament to ensure that all South Australians who work on Christmas Day, Saturday 25 December, are paid public holiday penalty rates. I do so because the Marshall Liberal government has failed to act. They have not declared Christmas Day, 25 December, a public holiday. Of course, we do have the additional recognition of a public holiday on Monday 27 December as a declared Christmas Day public holiday this year, but those workers who operate outside the Monday to Friday nine to five culture, which we know are increasingly part of our workforce, will not have that Saturday Christmas Day recognised as a public holiday.

This is a very simple bill. It is a simple bill that should have been introduced by the government. It is something as simple as declaring and gazetting. It did not need legislation of this parliament; however, other state parliaments have ensured such legislation as we do here today. The Marshall government's Christmas gift to South Australia currently, for 2021, is a pay cut for those people who must work on Christmas Day simply because it falls on a Saturday. Indeed, Premier Marshall it seems has turned out to be the ultimate Christmas Grinch.

Every other state and territory jurisdiction in this nation will ensure that not only is 25 December recognised as a Christmas Day public holiday but, where appropriate, Monday, the 27th, is as well. I note that around the country this is an issue that comes up as regularly as Christmas on a Saturday or Sunday. Of course, the South Australian legislation—the Holidays Act 1910—counts every Sunday as a public holiday. We have that anomaly in our legislation.

Jurisdictions such as Victoria do not have such an anomaly. Back in 2016, when Christmas Day, 25 December, fell in that jurisdiction, as it did here, on a Sunday, they did not have the protection of their act. It became quite a dispute in the public debate and the federal parliament as to what would be done when the Premier at the time making this decision, and still Premier, Dan Andrews and his government resiled from making Christmas Day, 25 December, a public holiday in that year.

It should come as no surprise to members of this council today and this parliament and the public of South Australia that the Greens are stepping up to protect Christmas Day as a public holiday, because that is exactly what we did in 2016 as well. This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue that, according to the Adelaidenow poll, 99-plus per cent of South Australians support. It is often joked that some in the conservative parties govern for the 1 per cent. Well, at the moment, the Marshall government is governing for the less than 1 per cent in terms of their reticence to declare Christmas Day a public holiday.

I commend the work of my federal leader, Adam Bandt, member for Melbourne, who moved a bill back in 2016 in the federal parliament designed to enshrine Christmas Day as a public holiday right across the country, knowing that in that particular case it was affecting his home state of Victoria. That particular piece of legislation—the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Christmas) Bill—would have ensured that public holiday penalty rates were to be paid to people working on Christmas Day, 25 December, regardless of which state they were in and regardless of whether it was a Saturday or a Sunday.

Unfortunately, this particular piece of legislation has become necessary through the lack of action of this government. For the majority of South Australians Christmas Day is a special day. It is a day shared with family and loved ones, but for many others it is a day when they are required to work and they miss out on this special time. This time has been well recognised not just for decades but for close to a century at least in this country as a public holiday. The sacrifice that they make should attract due compensation, and that compensation should not simply be that it is a Saturday that is not Christmas Day. It should be that it is a day that is a public holiday and Christmas Day.

The Marshall government have known for a long time that this issue was coming. They have refused to act. The Treasurer and Minister for Industrial Relations has refused to act. I imagine he has sought legal advice and legal advice and legal advice that will tell him whatever he wants it to say. I am not sure that he will be on the nice list for most South Australians come this Christmas, but I have to say, where the Marshall government has failed to act, this parliament will fix this issue. This parliament can fix this issue and this parliament can fix this issue tonight.

In the other place today, I note that the shadow treasurer, the member for Lee, gave notice yesterday and introduced the same bill this morning in that place that we debate here today. Should this bill pass this place tonight, he would be able to take carriage of it, having already passed a house of parliament. Indeed, we will have done some of the heavy lifting for him. I welcome that. I think this is a move that is sadly falling upon the parliament when the government has been unable to lead, where interests that are out of step with 99 per cent of South Australians have prevailed.

I note that we in this council have the power to ensure that all South Australians enjoy their Christmas and that those South Australians who work on the Saturday that is Christmas Day this year, regardless of in which industry they work, will be afforded the penalty rates that they deserve.

We have commended and lauded these workers, and certainly for me the ones that I will think of the most as we debate this legislation tonight are those who work in disability care, particularly in the NDIS scheme, those workers who members of parliament who attended the briefing on Monday on this bill heard from, those workers who give up their Christmases with their families to ensure that those people with disabilities and their families enjoy their Christmases with the support and care worker ensuring that that particular celebration and connection can continue.

Those workers give up that work knowing that if we do not give them the protections of this being a public holiday, the flow-on effects are several: (1) we do not accord them the rightful penalty rates that they should deserve for working on Christmas Day, a public holiday; (2) those workers who do sacrifice that time know that other workers may be less likely to turn up to work that day, and in fact they will shoulder a heavier load than they would have otherwise, due to the lack of appropriate penalty rates; and (3) they sacrifice time with their loved ones—precious time.

I think of the woman who, after the death of her mother, only has her younger brother left and he, too, has a disability. She has promised him a bang-up Christmas with what she thought would be the penalty rates that she would receive this year. But, indeed, she has not only let him down by not being able to spend Christmas with him but is letting him down on the promise that she thought she would be able to deliver on with the money from the penalty rates, the money that many people use to get through Christmas, one of the most expensive times of the year for many as well.

I note that I will be seeking that standing orders be so far suspended as to enable this bill to pass through the remaining stages without delay, and I alert the chamber to that. I note that an absolute majority will be required for that to happen. It would not need an absolute majority if the government minister were prepared to move that motion, but if the government is not prepared to move that motion this parliament does have the will and the ability and I hope the wherewithal to do that work, just as we will do the work of the government in ensuring that Christmas Day this year is a public holiday and that in the future when it falls on a Saturday, as it inevitably will, it will be treated as a public holiday and we need never have this debate again. With, that I commend the bill. I move:

That standing orders be so far suspended as to enable the bill to pass through its remaining stages without delay.



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