Page 4214 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2005

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Year’s Day can be appropriately treated and ensure for those in the work force who have to be separate from their families on those days and have to go out an earn a living—and I have never had to work on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day—the appropriate entitlements, remuneration and leave loadings are available to them.

MR GENTLEMAN: My supplementary question to the minister is: what has the response from the community been to these extra holidays?

MS GALLAGHER: I note with interest the comments of the chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Peters, who, rather surprisingly, has welcomed these changes. In Saturday’s Canberra Times, Mr Peters is quoted as suggesting that the two extra public holidays, coupled with recent wage increases, would ensure that this would be “a lucrative Christmas season for retailers”. In fact, the heading in the Canberra Times is “Another sales record expected for Christmas”.

Of course we support Mr Peters’ comments, but I have to say that they are rather different to the comments he made about this matter last year. They are entirely sensible, given the number of businesses that charge a public holiday surcharge for opening on these days. Businesses who operate on these days will, obviously, make a profit from trading on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. We, on this side, think that employees should have a bit of a share of that profit in terms of the application of penalty rates.

Those opposite, until now—they are getting a bit worked up now—have been silent on this issues. Again, that is in contrast to last year when Mr Smyth put out a media release under the heading “Another nail in the coffin of business friendly Canberra” in which he suggested that all businesses were going to have to move to New South Wales, until they realised the same situation applied in New South Wales and it was no good racing over the border.

In that release Mr Smyth suggested that the overall economic impact of an extra two public holidays must be “huge”. In some sense, Mr Smyth was right. The economic impact was huge; it was a huge boon, if you listen to Mr Peters. In the comments that he made to the Canberra Times, he said:

The additional business they received was more than worthwhile, simply because their customers also have an extra public holiday and it is their customers that are out and about shopping.

Similarly, the Hyperdome centre manager, Shane McCann, said his centre would be open on the two extra holidays because “historically these were some of the best trading days of the year”. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that the opposition has not released any scaremongering press releases this year, given that the small business community—certainly those that are considering opening—seems to support the government’s decision.

Mr Mulcahy has been very vocal in his opposition to recent increases in public sector pay. It is also worth putting on the record that Mr Peters identified, as one of the factors to ensure a bumper Christmas trading period, the increased wages in people’s pockets. Because people are getting paid more, or paid appropriately, there is a little more cash going. That has a flow-on effect and businesses do quite well out of this.

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