Christmas Day Should Be A Public Holiday

Bills, In Parliament, Speeches

Introduction and First Reading

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:07): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Holidays Act 1910. Read a first time.

Second Reading

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:08): 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.

The PRESIDENT: Is that seconded?

An honourable member: Seconded.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Can I just seek clarification: so this—

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Point of order, Mr President: that was a procedural motion and you cannot seek points of clarification during a procedural motion.

The PRESIDENT: I am going to put the question because I understand that is the process. I am not sure what the Treasurer was actually asking—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The honourable member has moved that standing orders be so far suspended as to enable the bill to pass through the remaining stages without delay. It has been seconded. I note that this will need an absolute majority to pass.

The council divided on the motion:

Ayes 13

Noes 8

Majority 5

Bonaros, C.Bourke, E.S.Darley, J.A.
Franks, T.A. (teller)Hanson, J.E.Hunter, I.K.
Maher, K.J.Ngo, T.T.Pangallo, F.
Pnevmatikos, I.Scriven, C.M.Simms, R.A.
Wortley, R.P.
Centofanti, N.J.Girolamo, H.M.Hood, D.G.E.
Lee, J.S.Lensink, J.M.A.Lucas, R.I. (teller)
Stephens, T.J.Wade, S.G.

Motion thus carried.

The Hon. C. BONAROS (16:23): If ever I have been pleased to support a bill in the lead-up to Christmas, I have to say this has to be it. I am pleased to be playing our part in this place, together with my crossbench colleagues and the opposition, in fixing a problem that will ensure people working Christmas Day are appropriately remunerated for their time and their sacrifice. It is a problem that the government has failed to fix itself. For the record, there is no point saying that this is not a problem of your making and therefore you are not required to fix it. It is a problem that exists. You are the government and it is your job to fix it.

As we know, the bill will ensure that, when Christmas Day falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, the day itself and the following Monday are both legislated public holidays. As the Hon. Tammy Franks has said, it is what happens in every other Australian state and territory. They will fix their laws. As the Hon. Tammy Franks has said, it affects those individuals whom we rely on on days like Christmas Day to leave their families behind to go to work to provide the services that we all need.

It requires our emergency services workers, our police, our paramedics, our healthcare workers, personal assistants and doctors, to go to work. It requires our disability workers, particularly if they are funded under the NDIS, to go to work. It requires our transport workers, such as bus, train and taxi drivers, to go to work. It requires our hospitality workers and our bottle shop workers to go to work. It requires our fast food workers to go to work, and our petrol station attendants to go to work, our pharmacy workers to go to work. All these people turn up to work on Christmas Day so that we can have access to some services on that day.

If we do not fix this bill, there will be absolutely no incentive for those people to go to work on Christmas Day. They will miss out on time with their families and their loved ones, and they will get a kick in the teeth in addition to missing out on those special moments that they would otherwise have shared with their family.

Many people will not go to work—it is not an issue of choice, you have to go to work. There are concerns around people not turning up to work and taking sick days. There are concerns about other individuals having to pick up the slack because individuals will not go to work, working double shifts because people will not turn up to work because it is Christmas, because there is no added incentive to make it attractive to go to work on Christmas Day. Who on earth would want to go to work on Christmas Day if it were not a public holiday? Who on earth would want to go to work on Christmas Day is one question, but if it is not on a public holiday it is just another kick in the teeth, and it could be easily fixed.

I want to reflect for a moment on the comments of Professor Spurrier on radio this morning. She said that she had said to her team, ‘This is not the Christmas you’re going to really enjoy. We won’t be taking much time off, and I’m looking at how we can bolster our team so that we can have this over a sustained period of time.’ If this bill is not passed and does not get through, Professor Spurrier and others like her better start hoping and praying for a Christmas miracle, because this government is doing nothing to encourage or incentivise already overworked people in that sector to turn up to work on Christmas Day.

There is one piece of correspondence that I have received that does not support this bill, and that came from Ai Group, urging SA-Best to oppose this bill, and I am sure others have received the same piece of correspondence. I have to say that the arguments put forward in that are unconvincing. I would question how many individuals at Ai Group, which penned this letter, are attending work on Christmas Day, but the biggest irony in that argument that was put was that we should be noting the importance of a national consistency in public holidays.

Every other state and territory has national consistency when it comes to Christmas Day. We are the ones who are out of step. The government has the opportunity to fix it; they have failed to do so, and this chamber is stepping up and cleaning up the government’s mess.

For those who sit on this side of the chamber, you had better hope and pray, like Professor Spurrier, that you do not run out of petrol, forget to buy a gift for your mother-in-law, run out of wine, or need an ambulance, because if this bill does not go through I reckon you might find that a lot of people just do not bother to turn up to work on Christmas Day. They might just say, ‘You know what, stuff it, I’m going to stay home and enjoy this day with my family, because the government has screwed me by not remunerating me appropriately for the sacrifices that I’m making for your comfort and for your enjoyment.’

I am going to go as far as suggesting that I think there are probably members on the government benches who are actually relieved that this bill is being introduced in this place. I am sure they have copped an absolute earful from their own constituents about the government’s inaction and are probably hoping, very quietly, that this matter is resolved today, not as a result of their government’s action but as a result of the remainder of this parliament’s actions.

I certainly hope that, when this bill gets to the lower house, common sense does prevail and they support this very important piece of legislation, which is very simple, as the Hon. Tammy Franks has said, and which addresses the failures of this government when it comes to Christmas Day.

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (16:29): I could not be prouder to get up and speak to this bill, because it goes to just about everything that I am about. I want to thank the Hon. Tammy Franks for bringing this bill. I also want to note, in thanking Ms Franks, that there is a similar bill in the other place—I think, actually, quite identical, possibly by design—brought by the member for Lee and, in doing that, I want to thank him for bringing that also.

In being so proud, I have to say: what a bizarre situation we find ourselves in. I am absolutely stunned that Premier Steven Marshall has allowed the issue to get this far. This is the Premier who would steal Christmas. Who would allow that to happen? To think that right now every other state and territory has the basic right, the basic notion and frankly the basic decency to say, ‘You know what? Christmas—that’s a special day.’ But not us.

Why not? Well, it is a question I think many here and certainly many outside here have been asking. Ms Franks has alluded to an Adelaidenow poll where 99 per cent of people supported the idea that Christmas Day should be a public holiday.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. J.E. HANSON: Ninety-nine per cent, the Hon. Mr Pangallo. I acknowledge polls come and go, but 99 per cent; it is pretty clear to South Australians that it is a special day. On a personal level, it is special to me in my family, and I am sure it is very special to the Premier’s family and indeed yours, Mr President, to sit and take a rest, maybe go to church, maybe sleep in or be woken by the kids in what is a familiar, certainly to me, but far too early sound of unwrapping presents, or maybe, later on in the day, as I am sure many of us will, kick back and enjoy just one more drink than you might otherwise have.

To others it is a special day, I have to say, for a whole other reason. To others, to workers—essential workers, frontline workers, workers in industries that supply us all, including the Premier, on that special day—it is a work day. It is the very least we could do, I think, while we relax and look forward to relaxing on Christmas Day and having the day off, that we recognise that it is special, that we recognise that maybe working on that day means that you get the special rate that working on a public holiday brings you, like every other state and territory in this nation.

We could have a Premier who could recognise that right now, who could, with the stroke of a pen, achieve what this parliament is having to legislate. How absurd. We are being forced to legislate it. What an absolutely absurd scenario.

What did we have when the Premier was asked, ‘Should Christmas be a public holiday?’ What did our Premier say? He said, and I can quote it, ‘We’re just implementing the situation that existed under the previous government.’ But that is okay, because when he was pressed, and the reporter asked him, ‘Yes, but you’re in government now. Would you change the law?’ do you know what the Premier said? He said, and I quote, ‘Well, look, that’s something you’d have to speak to the Treasurer about.’ I mean, really? That is leadership, is it? Could have fooled me. It is extraordinary, just extraordinary. Is there a decision that our Premier will not claim is someone else’s to make?

The Hon. I.K. Hunter: He’s not in it for the social issues.

The Hon. J.E. HANSON: He is not in it for the social issues, as the Hon. Mr Hunter contributes. This is Christmas Day. Why defer judgement to the Treasurer on this? I cannot understand that, and I think South Australia cannot understand that. That is why you get 99 per cent of people opposing it.

I want to assure the people of South Australia of one thing, but I want to assure particularly the workers who will be working on Christmas Day that the Labor Party and my leader, the member for Croydon, Peter Malinauskas, and indeed I, right now, will show the leadership that the Premier, Steven Marshall, will not. I will stand up to the Treasurer when it comes to your right to have Christmas as a public holiday. Let’s fix it, it is not hard, it is common sense. Let’s get on with it.

The Hon. I. PNEVMATIKOS (16:34): I rise today to support the bill put forward by the Hon. Tammy Franks, and in doing so thank her for her leadership on this issue and for bringing this bill to our chamber. It is extraordinary that we find ourselves debating this issue, particularly as workers and the community have sacrificed so much during this pandemic.

No matter if you celebrate Christmas Day or not, everyone looks forward to the public holiday. Most South Australians are lucky enough to spend the day with family and friends, relaxing and celebrating. However, each year some workers choose to sacrifice their Christmas Day celebrations to work. This year, workers will not get that choice. Without the protection of a public holiday, workers who are rostered to work on Christmas Day must work unless they are sick. They will also receive no additional pay or entitlements in compensation.

Yet again, this chamber seems to be embroiled in discussing and debating issues that could easily be resolved by the government. Yet again, it is falling on the opposition and crossbench to make decisions in the best interests of the state. Yet again, it is issues of industrial relations that have brought us here.

Throughout the course of this government’s term, they have told us they are friends of workers and that they are making life easier for working families. This rhetoric could not be further from the truth. Time and time again, this government has taken every opportunity to diminish the rights of workers.

How the Treasurer can sit there and oppose this is beyond me. I would like to thank the peak body SA Unions, the United Workers Union, the SDA and the ANMF for their campaign. I would also like to thank everyone who has joined in the fight to pass this legislation and every single worker who will be at work and not with their family and friends over the Christmas period.

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (16:37): I would also like to thank the Hon. Tammy Franks for bringing this issue into our parliament. I will thank a few other people a little later. When you open a Christmas card from a Liberal MP this year, paid for by taxpayers, to wish you a merry Christmas, every South Australian should rightly ask, ‘Do you really? Premier, do you really wish my family a merry Christmas?’ ‘The member for Adelaide, do you really wish my family a merry Christmas?’ or ‘The member for Newland, do you really wish my family a merry Christmas?’

No Liberal MP can send out a Christmas card this year that says the words, ‘On this day, to your family. I hope you enjoy a special time with the family you love.’ Their message cannot say, ‘We believe this is a time to say thank you to our essential workers who have kept us safe during the COVID pandemic.’ When those opposite say they are wishing you a merry Christmas, when they say this is a special time of year, when they acknowledge the incredible efforts of our essential workers, they do not mean it.

They are simply words, because they could acknowledge our workers and they could acknowledge it is a special day just with the stroke of a pen. Essential workers like retail workers, NDIS workers and nurses who have spent time away from their family more than ever during this pandemic are not going to have a merry Christmas. This government does not mean it.

I mention nurses because I understand that to this very day they are yet to receive confirmation if they will receive public holiday penalty rates for working on Christmas Day and the Monday. Over the past 18 months, the very people who have gone to work to keep us safe, to keep essential goods in our pantries, who have looked after those most vulnerable in our communities, who have kept this state running, have been overlooked by this Liberal government once again.

In the face of a global pandemic, every day our essential workers in supermarkets, petrol stations, fast food outlets, hospitality, distribution centres, allied health services, medi-hotels and aged-care homes have stepped up and served on the COVID frontline for us. Despite this, this Christmas these essential workers will not have a merry Christmas. They will miss out. They will be missing out because, unlike every other state, unlike every other Labor and Liberal state government, this government will not declare Christmas Day a public holiday in 2021.

Government is something we all long for. It is a very powerful word. This government during the pandemic were quick to pick up a pen and declare 24/7 trading hours in SA, but they must have lost that pen. They could have used that very same pen to do the very same thing for our essential workers this Christmas. They could have used the power of government for good. They could give workers in South Australia the same rights as every other worker across the country.

They could make it a merry Christmas for our essential workers, but they will not. Why? Because, unlike governments in other states, this government cannot say when they get something wrong, and there is a long list of things they do get wrong. Our essential workers have stepped up time and time again to keep our community safe, but this government has not stepped up and shown leadership. Honestly, I just do not know if those opposite have figured that out yet.

Being in opposition really sucks. It sucks because it is hard watching a government not get the basics right. In 2016, the Victorian government made a similar mistake, but it did not take them long to realise it was a mistake to not recognise the day of Christmas Day as a public holiday. Perhaps the Treasurer could learn a little something from the Victorian small business minister who said in 2016, ‘So I can tell you that unfortunately I don’t have the wisdom of Solomon, but I think it’s important that when you make a mistake you put your hand up, acknowledge it and get on with life.’

Those opposite do not know the true meaning of government. They certainly do not know the true meaning of leadership—that is what the roles of Grant Stevens and Nicola Spurrier are there for.

The Hon. R.A. Simms: They don’t know the meaning of Christmas either, it seems.

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE: Or Christmas—or a merry Christmas. Whilst most families are opening presents and celebrating, thousands of South Australians will be at work on Christmas Day without public holiday penalty rates.

If you live in a border community and you wonder why your Victorian neighbours are being paid penalty rates on Christmas Day and you are not, ask the Premier. If you are missing precious time with your family to keep others safe this Christmas and wondering why allied health workers are being paid penalty rates in New South Wales and you are not, ask the Premier. When you choose to work on Christmas Day, thinking you will do it because you need that little bit more cash in your bank account, only to find out you will not, ask the Premier if he could have changed this.

Because the Premier refuses to show leadership, it is now time for the parliament to step in and make sure our essential workers get the Christmas Day they deserve. The Greens, SA-Best, the Hon. John Darley and Labor do wish South Australians a merry Christmas. We do thank our essential workers for stepping up for SA, and that is why we will step up for those supporting us. We will support this bill. In doing so, I would like to thank United Voice, SA Unions, the ANMF and the SDA for the incredible work they have done bringing this campaign together and getting the voices of their members heard loud and clear.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (16:44): A question: when is Christmas not Christmas? The answer: when you have a Liberal state government. Most people in the community cannot even believe that we are having this debate. Most people cannot see why this debate even needs to occur. December 25th is Christmas Day. Who would have thought? December 25th is Christmas Day and if you work on December 25th you get paid public holiday penalty rates to compensate you for missing out on time with family and friends.

I commend the Hon. Tammy Franks and the member for Lee in the other place for bringing this bill forward. I commend the work of the various unions for supporting their members. December 25th, Christmas Day, is a day of huge significance for nearly everybody in our community. For Christians celebrating the religious feast day, for families getting together, for friends and community to be together, to relax, to enjoy, to celebrate.

Yet, we have many people in our community who do work on that day because they work in disability, hospitality, emergency services, health care, transport and various others—people who sacrifice their time with their loved ones on Christmas Day so that we can enjoy our Christmas. Every other state has fixed this problem. Every other state is supporting the people who work on Christmas Day and help us have a good day. Every other state has fixed this. So should we.

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (16:46): When I was industrial relations minister I had the pleasure of introducing part public holidays on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. During that process, even though we knew there was overwhelming support for it, we did a significant amount of public consultation. I was staggered myself at the amount of support there was for making what was not a public holiday into a public holiday.

There is tremendous support to make Christmas Day a public holiday. It is not very often that the crossbench and Labor vote as a bloc. We do it on occasions but not always. The crossbench have actually got their finger on the pulse and they know how much support this has out there in the community. I know that with the members of the government—and I have spoken to quite a number of them—there is a lot of support for this legislation, for this bill.

When I say ‘a lot of support’, people only wish they had not been embroiled in this debate because they know how much support penalty rates on a public holiday has. They keep giving the same message, that if they had their way they would just let it go through or they would have the Treasurer proclaim a public holiday. They all say the same thing, that this is a project basically of the Treasurer himself, who really has no skin in the game because he will not be here after the next election. This is an ideological thing that he has and he is running his Liberal colleagues down the valley of death because there is significant support for this.

I would also like to acknowledge the unions involved in this: the SDA, the nurses union, the United Workers Union. They are also supported by the firefighters, the police and the ambulance workers, who will probably spend most of their Christmas ramped up. And what about the carers? Carers who have to go and look after people just to get them through Christmas, just to manage to get them a meal? What about Meals on Wheels and all these people who work to make Christmas a special day for those people in our society who are very vulnerable? I fully support this bill and I acknowledge the work of Tammy Franks and the Hon. Mr Mullighan from another place.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Franks.

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY: The Hon. Ms Franks. Yes, she is very honourable with this bill. I look forward to the passage of this bill and hopefully a smooth transition through the lower house.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Leader of the Opposition) (16:49): I will speak very briefly in support of the bill that the Hon. Tammy Franks has put before us. It is the right thing to do, for a start. It is unequivocally, I think to 99 per cent of the population, the right thing to do for some of our lowest paid workers who are required to work on Christmas Day.

The Hon. Tammy Franks organised a forum earlier this week where some of those workers spoke about the fact that they would be carers looking after people living with a disability. They, out of a sense of duty to what they do and the people they care for, will work on Christmas Day whether they get paid penalty rates or not, but feel completely let down by this Liberal government.

It is the right thing to do, but even in your own self-interest it makes no sense to dig in with the entrenched position that the Hon. Rob Lucas is dragging his party back 40 years to: not supporting people by having Christmas Day declared a public holiday with penalty rates. I am just astounded that his colleagues are allowing this to happen. The Premier, the member for Norwood, the Hon. Steven Marshall, is allowing this to happen.

Come the next election, you will have people like Carolyn Power and Paula Luethen, the members for Elder and King, out in the electorate saying, ‘We want to build a $662 million basketball stadium instead of investing that money in health.’ As if that was not a big enough electoral difference already, what the Hon. Rob Lucas is doing is making Paula Luethen, member for King, and Carolyn Power, member for Elder, have to front up to doors in their electorates and when asked about it say, ‘I don’t support making Christmas Day a public holiday. I don’t support carers, I don’t support those who work in retail, I don’t support those who work in fast food getting penalty rates.’

He is forcing marginal seat holders like the member for King (Paula Luethen), the member for Elder (Carolyn Power), the member for Adelaide (Rachel Sanderson) and the member for Newland (Richard Harvey) front up to doorsteps and say, ‘Not only do I think a basketball stadium is the best way we could spend $662 million instead of the health system, but I don’t think people should get penalty rates for working on Christmas Day.’

This is the political genius that is the Hon. Rob Lucas, who is focused on what he is doing afterwards—his ponies out in the pastures—rather than the people of South Australia. Well, that is not where we are. Not only is it the right thing to do; it is what people expect of us.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:51): I also rise in support of this bill. In doing so I want to begin by praising my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks MLC for her leadership on this and for her long-time efforts here in this parliament advocating for the rights of working people. I also acknowledge the leadership of the union movement in running this campaign, in particular the SDA and the good work they have done in bringing this to the attention of people in this parliament.

As has been stated, over the last 18 months essential workers—that is, people working in our supermarkets, in our petrol stations, our fast food and hospitality outlets, allied health services, our medi-hotels, our aged-care homes—have been working incredibly hard to keep South Australians safe. They have been doing that during this once-in-a-century pandemic and during a once-in-a-century economic crisis.

What do they get in return for their hard work? A piece of coal from the Liberals this Christmas. I am not referring to the climate change policy, the woeful policy that Scott Morrison has announced, but rather the incredibly—

The PRESIDENT: The Prime Minister the Hon. Scott Morrison.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The Hon. Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I am of course referring to the Grinch-like behaviour of the state Liberal Party and the appalling way that they have approached this issue, and their refusal to recognise the rights of workers and recognise the fact that Christmas Day should be a public holiday for everybody.

There has been a lot said about the benefits of this bill. I will only speak briefly, but I want to read into Hansard some of the stories of people who will be directly affected. There have been some open letters sent to the Premier, talking about the benefits that will flow from this bill for families. I will start with one from Amber, who is a healthcare worker. She writes to the Premier:

Dear Premier,

I am an essential worker at a regional hospital. Throughout all of COVID, I and so many others have gone to work to keep normality and services open.

As life continues to be hard for all families, we essential workers still go to work on public holidays. Like Christmas day. A day when we essential workers would LOVE to be home with our families after everything Australians have endured [over] the last 18 months. But we have jobs to do, and part of what makes our lives a little more worth going to work [for], is the public holiday pay.

That pay helps alleviate a little of the financial burden with the extra pay from working the public holiday. But you don’t want to give SA families that. You don’t want to help out those families. You don’t offer any incentive to hard working people who have gone to work still.

No reward for medical workers, or any workers. No thanks, we know you can’t be with your families here is compensation in your pay.

The writer asks:

[Mr Premier] Will you go to work on Christmas Day, while thousands of us do? No, you won’t. Will you stand up for the SA people you serve, and give them the public holiday pay they deserve, while you sit at home?

Beth, a Kmart worker, has written:

Dear Premier,

I would…like to know your reasoning for not declaring Christmas Day public holiday, as it should be. Thousands of workers are going to be working that day, and missing out on valuable family time on what is one of the most special days of the year. At a time when we should be at home with our loved ones, and showing them what they truly mean to us, you’re more than happy to allow workers to miss out on that time with no compensation.

No amount of money can…compensate for lost family time, but having to go to work and get paid like it’s [just another] day of the year is [an absolute] disgrace.

I cannot help but agree with those sentiments; it is a disgrace and it is one that the parliament should put right and we have an opportunity to do that today. It is really disappointing that we are in this position. The Liberals are creating a nightmare before Christmas for South Australian workers and it is time for this parliament to put that right.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (16:56): The first issue I want to address is the issue of process. The established process that we have in this particular chamber is that, at private members’ time, when an individual wants to bring his or her bill to a vote, as they are entitled to do, they send an email to all members of the Legislative Council and indicate that they intend to bring their particular bill or motion to a vote on a particular day. It is a well-established process. It has allowed us to manage what is sometimes a difficult private members’ process, particularly in the last days of the session.

The Hon. Ms Franks, for whatever reason, chose not to advise members, as is the usual process and custom, that this was going to come to a vote. On Monday afternoons at 4.30pm, I convene a meeting of all parties (the opposition and crossbenchers) where members and/or their staff indicate—in particular they are there to talk about private members’ business—which particular motions or bills they want to bring to a vote on the Wednesday. We sat through that process on Monday, just two days ago, at 4.30pm, and there was no indication from either the Hon. Ms Franks or indeed her staff that she wanted to bring this particular matter to a vote.

To all intents and purposes, the rest of us, other than the Hon. Ms Franks and those who she might have confided in, had no idea that the honourable member wished this to come to a vote this afternoon. I have spoken about this before. In the end, the law is the numbers in this chamber, as we have just seen. If you can get the numbers to get your way, you can do it.

But what goes around comes around in relation to this. It is not the way we would generally operate in this particular chamber, but if that is going to be the process, that you do not advise anybody else that you want to bring this to a vote and then all of a sudden you bring on a suspension of standing orders to jam it through without any advice to anybody else, then so be it: that is going to be the process.

I think this chamber will be the worse for it and all I can say is that, over the remaining days, the Hon. Ms Franks has established the ground rules. If the government has the capacity with the support of enough members in the chamber to move in a particular direction differently to the established convention, then certainly if the government chose to do that the Hon. Ms Franks could have no objection at all to the same process being used by a majority in this particular chamber.

If you choose to use the numbers in this particular way, contrary to the way we generally operate, you cannot complain if a majority of members of which you might not be supportive decide to proceed with a bill, proceed with a motion or jam an amendment through that you might not have seen or had an opportunity to consult on or discuss or whatever your concern might be. If they are to be Rafferty’s Rules for the remaining days of this session, I think this place is the worse for it in terms of the way we are going to operate.

There was no reason why. If an honourable member, like the Hon. Ms Franks, had the support of the majority of the chamber, that is fine. All she had to do was send an email to people, as everyone else does. It is just a common courtesy to say, ‘I am proceeding to a vote on this particular issue.’ There are no great shakes. I am not sure why these sorts of conspiratorial games have to be played. Everyone else did it.

We have a dozen or 20 particular issues that people are speaking on—motions being brought to a vote. Everyone else was quite happy to advise other colleagues they were intending to bring this particular matter to a vote, but the Hon. Ms Franks obviously decided the rules that everyone else abides by and she likes to insist that everyone else should abide by do not apply to the Hon. Ms Franks in relation to these issues.

As I said, the reality is that the numbers hold sway and the Hon. Ms Franks had the numbers to do it—so be it. But there will be other occasions when the Hon. Ms Franks will not have the numbers and she certainly will not be in a position to complain that the established process has not been followed by the government or indeed the majority of members on the occasion. As I said, I was not able to address the issue because, as the honourable member pointed out, it was a procedural motion and no-one could address it at that particular time.

In relation to the bill that is before us today, the first thing that strikes me is the stark hypocrisy of all the Labor speakers in this particular debate—the stark hypocrisy of the Labor Party, some of whom were ministers in a former government when exactly the same process that this Liberal government was indicating it was going to proceed down was being adopted.

The advice I have been provided is that this occasion, where Christmas Day falls on a Saturday and the public holiday is declared for the Monday, has occurred on about six separate occasions. It happened in 1976 under a Labor government, in 1982 under a Labor government, in 1993—it would have been right on the cusp because the election was right at the end of the year, possibly around about December or whenever it was, so I suspect the decision was taken perhaps by the outgoing Labor government, but that is a question mark—in 2004 under a Labor government and in 2010 under a Labor government.

So over 40 or 50 years, there have been five separate occasions, so I am advised, where exactly the same circumstances have occurred and on every occasion Labor premiers, Labor ministers, Labor caucus members and union members—all of them—accepted the situation without demur, without opposition that the public holiday and the public holiday penalty rates would be on the Monday and Christmas Day would be treated as Saturday penalty rates. It is wrong to suggest there are no penalty rates because there are clearly penalty rates on the Saturday, but they are the Saturday penalty rates.

The arrant hypocrisy of the Labor speakers in this particular debate is apparent for everyone to see because the difference is that it is a Liberal government on this occasion. On the previous four or five occasions, they were Labor governments. All the Liberal government has done is indicated that we were going to do the same thing as the former Labor government did at that particular time.

There was no rallying of opposition from the shoppies union or indeed any of the unions. There was support, or grudging acknowledgment, that that was what the Labor government had done and was going to do and continued to do. They had 16 years in government, and the Hon. Mr Wortley was one of a cavalcade of industrial relations ministers over a long period of time, and if this was such a major issue for them someone in the caucus representing the shoppies union or whoever else or any of the other unions could have raised the issue.

The Hon. Mr Wortley decided he would not do it, and the various other industrial relations ministers under the Labor government decided they would not amend the Holidays Act in relation to these particular issues. The Hon. Mr Wortley commissioned a review of the Holidays Act and chose not to take any action in relation to either this issue or a range of other issues as well.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: So the stark hypocrisy, the hypocrisy of the Hon. Ms Bourke and all the other Labor members in this chamber, is quite clear—

The Hon. J.E. Hanson interjecting:


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —for everyone to see, because Labor governments took the decision that it was fair and reasonable to do what they did, and they continued to do it off and on through the seventies, through the eighties, through the nineties, through the noughties and through the teens. They did it in each of those decades as a Labor government.

The difference this time is that it is a Liberal government doing exactly the same thing, and all of a sudden we see this outrage being confected by the Labor opposition, which says, ‘Only a Liberal government would ever contemplate this,’ conveniently forgetting 40 years of their own history, where they did exactly the same thing in relation to exactly the same issue, in relation to exactly the same set of workers. Some members have said, ‘Well, what’s going to happen on the Saturday is people won’t come to work.’ Well, for 40 or 50 years, when the Labor government did the same thing, we had service stations that were open, we had shopping outlets that were open—

The Hon. E.S. Bourke interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Bourke was heard in silence; she should remain silent.

The Hon. E.S. Bourke interjecting:


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Mr President, I think they are a bit sensitive to the criticism, to the stark reality of what is being sheeted home to them that all this government is doing is exactly what they did for 40 or 50 years. Now, all of a sudden, they claim themselves to be as pure as the driven snow: ‘Goodness gracious me, this an outrage, a Liberal government is doing this, this isn’t something a Labor government looking after workers would do, heavens to goodness no,’ but forgetting conveniently—it’s convenient when you are a member of the Labor Opposition to have 40 years of amnesia, selective amnesia, just to forget all that they did—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —for 40 or 50 years, every decade through from the seventies onwards, exactly the same thing. All of a sudden, shock, horror, the Liberal government is doing what the Labor government has done. As I said, all of a sudden they claim themselves to be as pure as the driven snow, this is not something they would ever have contemplated and relying on selective amnesia of 40 or 50 years of their own history in relation to exactly the same issues.

The second point I would make—and I respond to Amber, who was quoted by the Hon. Mr Simms, a nurse or a health worker. What the Labor government did as a result of an Industrial Relations Commission decision in 1976, and what they have done ever since, was pay to their public sector workers, such as healthcare workers, such as emergency services workers, such as police, such as those people who might have to work in residential care in the government sector, all public servants, all public sector workers were paid by the Labor governments, plural, an additional 200 per cent penalty for Christmas Day.

It is incorrect to say that these public sector workers—if we can address them, and Amber in particular, the public sector workers—were not paid by the Labor government an additional penalty rate in recognition of the fact that they had to work on Christmas Day. They were. They were paid a 200 per cent penalty rate. The only difference was that nurses, in an agreement with the government, got a 250 per cent penalty rate on the Saturday because they chose to offset that with the 200 per cent on the Monday.

All other public sector workers under the Labor governments got a 200 per cent penalty rate on the Saturday and a 250 per cent penalty rate on the Monday. The nurses, in an agreement with the Labor government—I do not know whether it was in the early decades but certainly since 2010—reversed that and got 250 per cent on the Saturday and 200 per cent on the Monday.

I have indicated publicly and to the PSA and a number of the unions with whom I have met that we would do exactly the same as the Labor government. Our public sector workers who are required to work—this is funded by the taxpayers—would be reimbursed—

The Hon. E.S. Bourke interjecting:

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: No, members of parliament will not get an extra penalty rate on the Saturday. The Hon. Ms Bourke wants to ask questions about MPs, but they are the least of my concerns in relation to penalty rates. The Liberal government will give all those workers who are required to work on Christmas Day a 200 per cent penalty rate on the Saturday and the 250 per cent if they are required to work on the Monday.

That is exactly what the Labor governments—plural—did from 1976 onwards. As I said, there was an Industrial Relations Commission decision and they implemented it. Labor governments since then have continued to implement it whenever this has occurred and we have indicated that we will do exactly the same thing.

In relation to the nurses, the default position is 200 per cent for Saturday and 250 per cent on the Monday. They would prefer, of course, having seen this bill, 250 per cent on both days. Under the proposal we have, which is the same as the Labor government’s, if they wanted to do the switch as they have done previously, when they did it under the Labor government, that option is open to them as well.

Let us distinguish the two broad sectors of workers. For the public sector workers, the taxpayers are going to pay a 200 per cent penalty rate on the Saturday and 250 per cent on the Monday to reimburse them for the work they do. Let us turn to the private sector workers, because that is not something the government pays for; that is something businesses and employers have to pay for.

The issue in relation to public sector workers is, ‘Okay, the government takes a decision, we spend the taxpayers’ money and we are going to compensate at a higher level those who have to work on the Saturday.’ When we talk about the private sector workers, it is not the taxpayer nor the government but actually small business owners and operators who have to pay the increased penalty rate on the Saturday.

One of the most impacted sectors as a result of COVID-19 has been tourism and hospitality. On any number of occasions, Labor members and crossbenchers in this chamber and in the other chamber have continued to rail about the problems and the lack of financial support and assistance for small businesses, in particular in the hospitality sector and in the tourism sector. The two business organisations that represent the small and large businesses in that particular sector are the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association and the Australian Hotels Association. The Restaurant and Catering Industry Association have written to me and are strongly opposing the provision.

One of the constant themes through the submissions from the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association, individual cafe owners and restaurant owners, the AHA and individual hotel owners is pointing out that, whilst it is true to say that South Australia’s circumstances under Labor governments and under the Liberal government are different in relation to Christmas Day, it is also different in the fact that we are, with one other jurisdiction, the Northern Territory, the only state that actually gives a half-day paid public holiday on Christmas Eve and a half-day public holiday on New Year’s Eve.

Whilst we are different in relation to Christmas Day, we are also different in the fact that hospitality workers, unlike anywhere else, any other state, get public holiday penalty rates on Christmas Eve and on New Year’s Eve. Again, that is not a cost to the government; that is a cost to the small business owner, the small business operator, who actually has to pay that.

What the AHA submission, individual hoteliers and the Restaurant and Catering association, the individuals in that, point out is, under the proposed arrangement under this bill, small business employers will have to pay 250 per cent penalty rates for 4½ days in a row. They will pay 250 per cent penalty rates for the half-day on Christmas Eve, they will pay a 250 per cent penalty rate for Saturday, they will pay a 250 per cent penalty rate for Sunday, they will pay a 250 per cent penalty rate for Monday and they will pay a 250 per cent penalty rate for Tuesday.

What these small business operators are saying is, ‘We are struggling, we are emerging from COVID, and what you are saying to us is that for 4½ days over the Christmas period we have to pay 250 per cent penalty rates.’ If someone is being paid at the lower end of a hospitality worker, $20 an hour, you are paying them $50 an hour for working on 4½ days through this particular period.

That is why the restaurant and catering association and the AHA are so strongly opposed to the legislation. It is Restaurant and Catering Australia’s belief that passing this bill would present extra costs to business on what will be one of their busiest trading days. They highlight the fact that over 93 per cent of businesses in the cafe, restaurant and catering sector are small businesses, employing 19 people or less. In South Australia, the restaurant and catering association represents 2,697 restaurants and cafes, which employ 42,078 South Australians. They go on to say:

For the 93 percent of our industry that is small business, having to pay penalty rates on this day will mean that they will probably stay closed, rendering the point of this Bill redundant.

Not only will consumers miss out on dining in a restaurant or café or purchase takeaway, but it will also mean that workers will miss out on a day’s wage. The hospitality sector is the largest employer of young people with 43 percent of the industry being 15-24 years of age.

Given the lack of interstate and international tourism coming into South Australia due to COVID-19 this will be devastating to the local South Australian economy.

The Australian Hotels Association represents both big and small hotels throughout metropolitan and regional South Australia. I will not read all of their 3½-page letter, but just some excerpts:

Impacts of COVID-19

The South Australian Hotel Industry has borne the brunt of the economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic through lockdowns, the shutting of borders, standing down of staff and ongoing restrictions imposed on our venues.

The November to January trading period is the most crucial time of year for our industry as we see heightened activity through increased weddings, functions and events. There has never been a more important time for our industry than the lead up to Christmas and the Christmas period this year for our industry to recover the financial losses they have suffered so far this year.

Hotels will not want to see opportunities lost through increased operating costs on days such as Christmas Day. The passing of the Amendment Bill would increase operating costs for Hotels at a time when they need to make the most of their economic opportunities coming out of the pandemic.

The AHA goes on to highlight the two half-day public holidays issue that I highlighted earlier in my contribution and also highlight some of the other issues in relation to the arrangements for New Year’s Day and the like. They also go on in their submission to highlight the importance of wage costs in terms of the viability of the businesses and the fact, again, that for 4½ days they are going to be required, or they would be required, to pay 250 per cent penalty rates for some of their employees operating within their businesses.

In relation to consultation that we quickly did on this, I think one of the honourable members referred to the submission from the Ai Group, which opposed it. Business SA opposed it, the Motor Trade Association opposed it, so certainly most of the employer organisations indicated their opposition to the legislation.

As I said, this is not a cost for government in relation to their operations. This is a cost for the business owner and operator. Overwhelmingly, in this particular sector it is the small business owners and operators that will be impacted. Of course, there will be some larger operators, as I said, in the hotel industry and some of the other industry sectors that would be impacted as well in relation to all of these issues.

In relation to the consultation on the other side, I think some of the members referred to the fact that clearly the shoppies union, the nurses federation and the UWU wrote to me. There was possibly one other union. I think there were three or four unions that wrote in support. Again, I think some of the members of the Labor Party have highlighted those unions that have opposed the legislation.

That is the government’s position in relation to this. I again want to reiterate that, should this legislation not pass through the parliament, I give the assurance again publicly that our hardworking public sector workers, our nurses, police, our correctional services officers, our emergency services workers, some of our residential care workers, will be compensated and reimbursed at a 200 per cent penalty rate in exactly the same way as they were under the former Labor government over many decades.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:22): I thank all those members who have made a contribution today and those members who understand that time is of the essence. We have possibly five sitting days, as many as eight sitting days, before Christmas. Christmas is some 59 days away. We had all year to debate this, had we wished to do so, with the government undertaking a thorough consultation, as the New South Wales government did back in 2010, when time and time again this matter had been raised.

In New South Wales in particular, they have addressed this issue and ensured that, where Christmas Day falls on either Saturday or Sunday, not only is there a recognition of Christmas Day, 25 December, as a public holiday but the following Monday is recognised as a public holiday as well or, given they also have Boxing Day, they make accommodations for those two days. We have Proclamation Day in South Australia, in our culture, which is not something that New South Wales has. I do commend New South Wales for doing all of the groundwork that shows that Christmas Day is a special day. It is a day that has been in our calendar in this nation for a very long time.

I thank the Hon. Rob Lucas for drawing my attention to process. Most of his speech was about process. I am sorry I did not send you an email. I understand that what goes around comes around. Indeed, it will be the Kris Kringle that keeps on giving. I refer you to the issues and the debate that happened in the other place this morning and say that perhaps karma is quicker than normal today. Perhaps I would have sent you an email if I had not been engaged in the debate that was happening in the other place this morning.

I note that the Treasurer has drawn our attention to the concerns of those who work in the hospitality and tourism sector, and he has indeed said that we are the only ones to have part public holidays. Actually, Queensland followed South Australia’s lead and gave those same part public holidays but for longer than we do in South Australia. I think Queensland is pretty much based on hospitality and tourism. Good one day, perfect the next, and indeed following South Australia’s lead the next.

With the lead-up to Christmas our retail sector workers will be under the pump and never more so than under this Treasurer. With COVID, Christmas will be more important to families this year than it ever has been in recent times. I note that many of the Treasurer’s examples were from decades ago, back when it was only a state IR system. He seemed to forget that we have now moved to ensure those national employment standards that do indeed recognise Christmas Day as a public holiday and the changes that have happened.

In particular, I draw to the Treasurer’s attention, because he seems to have forgotten, that under the Fair Work Commission back in 2017 the very workers he now bemoans getting $50 an hour over this period of time for their public holidays basically faced, under the rulings there, some $6,000 a year cut to their annual pays. Those workers he wrung his hands about in the last few minutes he certainly did not seem to be wringing his hands or indeed speaking out for back in 2017.

They have suffered under the current system and it would be nice for them to have not just a little extra Christmas pay to pay the bills but for those who are not brought in to work—because in the private sector in particular it will be deemed too expensive—they will actually get some holiday time. Do you know what people do with holiday time? They support the hospitality and tourism sector. So what goes around really does come around. I commend the bill.

The council divided on the second reading:

Ayes 13

Noes 8

Majority 5

Bonaros, C.Bourke, E.S.Darley, J.A.
Franks, T.A. (teller)Hanson, J.E.Hunter, I.K.
Maher, K.J.Ngo, T.T.Pangallo, F.
Pnevmatikos, I.Scriven, C.M.Simms, R.A.
Wortley, R.P.
Centofanti, N.J.Girolamo, H.M.Hood, D.G.E.
Lee, J.S.Lensink, J.M.A.Lucas, R.I. (teller)
Stephens, T.J.Wade, S.G.

Second reading thus carried; bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

Bill taken through committee without amendment.

Third Reading

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:32): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.