Public Holidays Amendment Bill 2019

Mr KENNEDY (Hawthorn) (17:22:46): Today I rise to speak proudly on the Public Holidays Amendment Bill 2019. The bill will enshrine in legislation Easter Sunday and Grand Final Friday as public holidays. It will also legislate for an additional public holiday when Christmas Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday. This helps right a wrong, as the Kennett government introduced the Public Holidays Act 1993, which had the practical impact of abolishing Easter Saturday, Easter Tuesday and Melbourne Show Day as public holidays. Here I call on the lines of William Shakespeare to describe those darker days of the Kennett government, and I am quoting from Richard III: Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this son of York; And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house In the deep bosom of the ocean buried. Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths— and so on. I have helped William and William has helped me over the years, and we have rewritten this slightly. This is how it now reads: Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this son of Mulgrave; And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house— and so on and so forth. We have liberated that. Sorry, William! This bill will also ensure penalty rates for those days are preserved, guaranteeing workers are properly remunerated for working unsociable hours so that the rest of us can enjoy time with friends and family. This legislation was an election commitment. It will allow greater certainty for Victorians around their holiday plans for the forthcoming year and will make it harder for a subsequent coalition government to reverse these public holidays—no more winter of discontent. Following the election of the Andrews Labor government in 2014 we have seen strong growth in the labour market, with employment increasing by 15.1 per cent, or 442 300 workers. The majority of this job growth has been in full-time work, up 313 600 workers. We have the second lowest unemployment rate in Australia. Since these public holidays have occurred through gazettal Victorian small businesses have gone from strength to strength. Victorian small businesses are the most confident in the nation, with the number of small businesses growing at a yearly rate of 3.6 per cent, well above the national average. The creation of these public holidays also saw an enormous boost to regional tourism, with many families taking the opportunity to travel to regional Victoria and enjoy all that it has to offer. It will be interesting to see whether the opposition will finally support this important bill. Does the Leader of the Opposition, despite the many benefits afforded by these public holidays, stand by the view he expressed in 2014 that ‘Daniel Andrews is again sending the message that Victoria will be closed for business under Labor’? But the issues are much deeper and go to the core of our being as human beings and citizens of Victoria. Let me explain why I believe this is not just about business making a profit or sweeteners at election time and so on. Rebecca Huntley in the latest Quarterly Essay, titled ‘Australia Fair: Listening to the Nation’, quotes the Australian Election Study findings that the proportion of Australians who agree that ‘people in government can be trusted’, by which they mean politicians—us, I am afraid— and the public service, had declined from 51 per cent in 1969 to 26 per cent in 2016. Australians see corruption everywhere and believe that almost everyone has a self-serving agenda. They are always on the lookout for the lie, the rip-off, the hustle, whether it be from a telemarketer, a tradie, a minister of government or minister of religion. When you think about it, this bill from the Andrews government rises above all these perceptions. It is about what is good for people, not simply business and profit interests. Sigmund Freud was once asked what is the essential essence of a happy life. He replied that it was to have success in love and work. Let me speak of work. Last November I had been in my 10th year as a retired secondary school principal when the people of Hawthorn gave me this wonderful gift of their trust in my intentions and abilities. This has been a wonderful experience, notwithstanding that people ask if I am sorry not to have undertaken this political journey 40 years ago when I was 30. The answer is a resounding no! Whatever the undoubted value of this new role, I know how much I just loved that job of 30 years as a principal, even with its inevitable ups and downs. This is my point: how fortunate was I to be in work I adored. Rarely did I find myself clockwatching, eagerly looking forward to 5.00 p.m. or the weekend. So many Victorians are far from being in that situation for a variety of reasons and circumstances. What does this have to do with public holidays, you may ask? Everything, I suggest. They can be therapeutic, these public holidays, for those finding little satisfaction in their toil. They are not only a wonderful source of diversion but they provide opportunities to sit still, smell the roses, reflect on one’s experience and think ahead to the future. Take that gift of the great Australian summer period from Christmas Day on 25 December to Australia Day on 26 January, when even the great ABC goes on holiday. For large numbers of us that is a fantastic chance to enjoy time in a different situation to the work scene, with family and friends, reflections and lessons on the past and our thoughts and dreams of the future—what a tonic. Think of all the extra casual employment, especially for younger people in service industries, often but sadly not always on penalty rates. It is such a great time of year, thanks partly at least to some well-placed public holidays. Public holidays are so important in our national and personal psyches. I have spoken about the wonderful Christmas Day to Australia Day period, with the personal opportunities for growth of various kinds. Then comes Labour Day, carrying a variety of connotations for workers and their rights, followed by Easter, enabling a four-day break for most, and Anzac Day, causing us to pause on those sad and proud moments in our history. The sovereign’s birthday in June for me is a reminder we must continue to examine what it means to be an independent nation as we move to becoming a republic and our own head of state. Then nearly four months later it is the AFL Grand Final and Melbourne Cup. I would not describe myself as mad keen about football or horseracing, but I know lots of people around me are. Indeed growing up in Sydney I remember public examinations halted for the running of the Melbourne Cup. For a while after migrating to Melbourne in my late 20s, Victorians thought of me as quite strange and eccentric. I just have time for one story. I remember once during the grand final of 1977, when I was a resident at St Mary’s College at Melbourne University, I was going into the common room to get some milk. I said, ‘Is there any milk?’, and people screamed and yelled at me, because it was the last moments of the dead heat between Collingwood and North Melbourne, if you remember, in the fourth quarter. People thought I was an absolute weirdo. I have had other experiences as well, when people said, ‘Only you would ring someone during the fourth quarter of an AFL Grand Final’. Well, I have learned; I have moved on from there. I have heard other tragic stories of people who could not go to the grand final parade because school was still being held—in 2000, I think some poor Essendon supporter told me. Football is such a part of the cultural fabric of Victoria, being that it originated here in the 1850s, attracts such huge crowds and is a weekly obsession for many people—not me. Also at the grassroots level the game plays an important role, with thousands of participants at suburban and country clubs. What is important are the values of family life that are greatly strengthened by these provisions in our working and social life. This is not just about obsessing about alleged losses to business and profits, nor is it just about acknowledging important events in our state and nation. It is about enjoying quality of life in a civilised part of the world.

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