Page 3723 - Week 10 - Thursday, 14 September 2017
Significant parliamentary events such as the 1967 referendum, which was championed by the Liberal government of the day, should be recognised and celebrated appropriately. The referendum made two significant amendments to our constitution which recognised the First Peoples of this land. The amendments were overwhelmingly endorsed, winning 90.77 per cent of votes cast and carrying in all six states.
When the discussion first took place late last year, my Liberal colleagues and I made it very clear that we were supportive of the intention to create a Reconciliation Day public holiday but not to simply create another public holiday: that it would need to be done in exchange for one of the existing holidays. Replacing an existing holiday seems to be a sensible course of action, and I note that that is how Reconciliation Day has come about, by replacing Family and Community Day.
I acknowledge that a great deal of work and effort went into the consultation for the Reconciliation Day public holiday, largely led by Dr Bourke in his time as the minister. The consultation at the time indicated that there were mixed views in the community on the change, but a majority were supportive. Ninety-four submissions were received as part of this consultation; 70 were in support and 14 against, with 10 sitting on the fence, undecided.
I will also echo the comments made by Mr Rattenbury on the positioning of public holidays here in the ACT and also touch briefly on consistency. Currently, in the first half of the year we have New Year’s Day, being the first public holiday to kick the year off, Australia Day, Canberra Day, Anzac Day, and Good Friday, as well as Easter Sunday and Monday, being recognised in the ACT as public holidays. The addition of Reconciliation Day on 27 May or the first Monday after that date places it in quite close proximity to what is the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. I recognise that moving Family and Community Day and replacing it with Reconciliation Day avoids what was, particularly in the business community, quite a frustrating period where Family and Community Day was preceded by, in the week before, the October long weekend, often creating a great deal of difficulty for local business.
What we have here is that in most years, it is my understanding, there will be a fortnight between the Reconciliation Day holiday and what is the Queen’s Birthday holiday. But there are some years where that will be a much closer time frame. Some of the complexity of trying to address a better string of public holidays is which ones we can move. New Year’s Day and Australia Day are obviously fixed days and national holidays. Likewise, Anzac Day and the three holidays around Easter are fixed. It really leaves the option of reassessing Canberra Day or the Queen’s Birthday holiday. Whilst other states celebrate the Queen’s Birthday on a different weekend from the one we do in the ACT, we have some consistency with New South Wales.
I think that any move to tinker with public holidays needs to be done with broader consideration of what impact it has for residents who live in New South Wales but work in the ACT and maybe have kids going to school there and vice versa. There is obviously a difficulty where a parent may have kids home from school because they attend an ACT school but they are employed in New South Wales and are expected to