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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 13 Hansard (16 November) . . Page.. 4213..


MR GENTLEMAN (continuing):

Act. Why was this measure taken, given public holidays are already allocated for those days?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mr Gentleman for his question. Mr Gentleman is right. Christmas Day and New Year's Day are both automatically declared public holidays under our legislation, the Holidays Act. However, this year both Christmas Day and New Year's Day will fall on a Sunday. Under the act, the public holiday status of both those days automatically moves to the following Monday. What it would have meant for employees that have to work on Christmas Day or New Year's Day, that is, the Sundays, is that those days would not have been observed as public holidays, along the same lines as last year when the two days fell on Saturdays.

The act gives me the ability to authorise additional public holidays. The ACT government, when considering our decision on these days, sees these days as opportunities for families to come together. Their status as holidays must be protected. I was concerned that, if we did not take this decision, workers, particularly workers in the hospitality and retail industries, would be forced to work on these days when they may have preferred to stay at home with their families. This declaration will ensure that workers have the choice to be rostered on for those days and, if they do work on those days, they will have access to appropriate remuneration for working on what we see as unique days in our calendar. I should also say that this declaration brings us into line with Victoria and New South Wales who have also taken special measures this year to protect the status of these holidays.

It is, again, in the environment that we are working in, relevant to talk about the impending WorkChoices legislation. In a climate of unprecedented fear of entitlements, conditions and protections being under threat from the federal government, it is important that the ACT government does whatever it can to protect working people's conditions, to look at where we can sensibly work together to ensure that people have access to appropriate remuneration and appropriate time with their families in what will be a very special time of the year. In light of the legislation proposed by the commonwealth, it is potentially the last time these workers will have access to penalty rates and leave loadings on these days.

We know the changes forecast by the federal government. We notice from the opposition yesterday at the national day of protest that this could be the last Christmas when some of those protections, some of those entitlements and some of those little add-ons that are there to support families at this time of year are not up for grabs.

Those opposite get a bit tired of all this discussion about protecting people's entitlements and looking after those people that are forced to work on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. I don't know how many of those opposite, in the negotiations they had in their jobs over time, have been in a position where, potentially, they could have had those entitlements, those shift loadings or those penalty rates taken away. They are all up for grabs. Next year things such as penalty rates and leave loadings-certainly, for many, many Australians, including many people in the ACT-will be a distant memory because they won't be included in their remuneration package any more.

We will continue to examine the options that are available to us to protect working people's conditions and ensure that important days such as Christmas Day and New


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