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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 17 November 2015) . . Page.. 4066 ..

lives. We are near the top of the list of nations with the longest working hours. Almost three-quarters of Australians take work home with them at least once a week. Forty-one per cent of Australian workers usually work between nine and 11 hours every day compared with 38 per cent of workers globally. I think workers in Australia deserve their public holidays. They deserve some time off and they deserve full public holiday entitlements when they do work on these public holidays.

As with the previous changes the Assembly approved for public holidays, New South Wales already observes Easter Sunday as a public holiday, and this will now see the ACT in alignment with New South Wales. The ACT government will bear some costs in order to implement this change, as will some industries, especially the hospitality and retail industries. That is an important point to make. Mr Smyth in opening his remarks said only business pays for this. There are a range of 24-7 government operations that are covered by this—emergency services, corrective services, and a range of agencies and health services which are also impacted by this. I agree that though it remains appropriate to make Easter Sunday a public holiday and I support the benefits in terms of work-life balance, family time and entitlements, it is important that the ACT workers also get this, and that is why I wanted to comment on the fact that the government is also impacted by this provision.

I commend the government and Mr Gentleman for bringing forward this change, and I hope that this does enable workers in our community to enjoy more time with their families and other members of their communities.

MR WALL (Brindabella) (5.26): A number of points have been covered off in this debate by the three sides of this chamber, from public holidays being great and we should have more of them to classifying days such as Easter Sunday as a public holiday being an appropriate step. It is a significant day for so many in our community, particularly those of faith. It is right that the penalty rates be paid on it. But I think the underlying motivation needs to be explored as to why this change is being brought about.

Nothing is more telling about the motivations behind this particular change to public holidays than where it was announced. The announcement by the government that they were going to bring about this legislative change and gazette Easter Sunday as a public holiday was launched at the ACT Labor Party conference earlier this year. It was made as an announcement to their core base—the union movement—the base that underwrites and underlies the Labor Party. It goes to show that the consequences of such a change were not considered. We did not see any discussion broadly with the business community. There was very little discussion with the business sector to understand what the impact is on them.

The comments from the Canberra Business Chamber are, in this instance, very measured and quite accurate and underline exactly what the issue is. The statement that has come out from the Canberra Business Chamber says:

We understand that Easter is a special time that people want to spend with family and friends … The introduction of Easter Sunday as a public holiday will also bring us into line with our neighboring jurisdictions over the border in NSW. 

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