Page 4064 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 17 November 2015

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Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

Holidays Amendment Bill 2015

Debate resumed from 29 October 2015, on motion by Mr Gentleman:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (5.17): This bill makes Easter Sunday a public holiday. I suspect the majority of people in the ACT probably think that Easter Sunday is already a holiday. In that regard I suspect most people would say it probably should be. I think the dilemma, though, is who gets to pay for it. It is well and good for the government to gazette holidays, but they do not pay for them—the business community pays for them. I think there is a level of angst in the business community where they now see that we have the most public holidays in the country and there does not seem to be an end to the number that the government will gazette as public holidays.

I note the Business Chamber has put out a media release saying the ACT government must remove a current day off before introducing Easter Sunday public holidays. I do not think people begrudge anyone having a public holiday where it is reasonable and appropriate. But what we seem to have is just addition of holiday after holiday without any regard for the due impact on the business community that gets to pay for it and, indeed, their families. There is a contradiction because we often say this will compensate people who are not able to be with their families on the public holiday, but the people who lose the most are the owners and the proprietors, particularly in the retail, tourism and hospitality sectors. If you are, for instance, in one of the large malls, you are obliged to open. If the mall says you will open, you will open. So it means that you then pay the higher tariff for the staffing. Your costs are fixed, so obviously the additional funds required come out of any profit you may make on the day. That is the problem.

There seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding of how business operates and what these imposts will be on the business community, particularly on the owners. Often what owners will do is that they will run the day themselves with family—they will bring in their kids. I grew up in a family business and on Saturdays and Sundays—maybe it is why mum and dad had 10 kids—we had plenty of staff. I suspect most businesses do not have that number of offspring to man the cash registers and look after the customers.

It is a dilemma that needs to be addressed. There needs to be greater understanding of what the impact of this is on business and what it costs business to pay the rate that is set before we go ahead and continue to make holidays. The Business Chamber—I know Mr Wall has more to say on this—has made the suggestion that perhaps we should look at the number of holidays before we keep adding. Perhaps there are some holidays that are no longer appropriate.

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