Page 3006 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 15 September 2015

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The ACT government values the members of our community who work on weekends. Their contributions are integral to the growing value of our visitor community and making Canberra the lively, cosmopolitan city that it has become. We also acknowledge the sacrifices made by weekend workers, families and friends who miss out on time spent together relaxing with their loved ones.

By legislating to make Easter Sunday a public holiday we will be taking action to ensure that the territory’s industrial relations system stays in step with contemporary work practices. I firmly believe that people who work on days of community significance should be able to unite as families or, if not, they should be properly compensated for the time they spend away from family on important occasions.

In 2009 Professor Joellen Riley was engaged by the New South Wales government to conduct a review of the Banks and Bank Holidays Act 1912 with a view to recommending measures for modernisation of the recognition of public holidays in that state. Importantly, her work informed the New South Wales government that the deferral of certain public holidays to days other than the significant day itself restricted the ability of Australians as working citizens and members of families and communities to enjoy the celebration of community holidays.

Particular times of year permit people, especially those whose families are separated by distance, to join together, and this is particularly true at Easter. The health and social wellbeing of people, supported by their ability to maintain family connections, was a key point that the ACT government considered in working to make Easter Sunday a public holiday.

Making Easter Sunday a public holiday will mean that holiday penalty rates and other entitlements under the applicable enterprise agreements will apply. Furthermore, workers will have the option to exercise their right under the Fair Work Act to refuse to work and to be paid if they are absent as a result of refusing to work on Easter Sunday. If a worker decides to give up a public holiday, then it is fair and right that they should be paid at the appropriate penalty rate.

Declaring Easter Sunday a public holiday responds to the growing community concern that Easter is a significant and protracted holiday period akin to Christmas and New Year’s Day and it is important that public holiday entitlements be afforded to workers during these periods. Interestingly, the Victorian government has gazetted Easter Sunday a public holiday from 2016.

MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Ms Porter.

MS PORTER: Minister, why is it important that penalty rates for workers are protected?

MR GENTLEMAN: I thank Ms Porter for the supplementary question. The importance of penalty rates cannot be overstated. Penalty rates are an inseparable part of our collective value of a fair go and provide an essential bulwark against labour exploitation. Penalty rates fairly compensate workers for the effect that working

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