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Friday, 11 November 1921

Senator FOSTER (Tasmania) . - I move -

That in sub-clause (1), after the word " Sovereign," the following words be inserted, " the twenty-fifth of April."

Consequentially upon this I shall also move that in sub-clause 3 the word " four " be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word "three." For the past two or three years there has been some discussion as to whether the 25th April, which is Anzac Day - the day on which it has been said Australia was born as a nation - should be observed as a public holiday. For two years there was some difficulty in arranging the matter, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), I think principally because of his interest in the matter, granted last Anzac Day as a public holiday. The soldiers' organizations, particularly, and the Fathers and Mothers Associations, are very keen in desiring that this day should be observed as one of our national days. I have moved that it be one of the prescribed national holidays, and that the number of days which may otherwise be prescribed as holidays be reduced from four to three. I know that this is a matter which has to be dealt with carefully, because the number of public holidays in the year must be kept within reasonable limits.

Senator Russell - The Government would be glad to grant Anzac Day as a holiday, but they think that the occasion should not be used for holding picnics, prize fights, and the like. They think that it is too serious a day to be devoted to such amusement, and that it should be observed in a semi-religious manner, on 'a Sunday. I think that is also the view taken generally by the people of Australia.

Senator FOSTER - There is a difference of opinion regarding the way in which the day should be observed. Some people say that it should be observed as a memorial day, and others that it should, if it is the day on which Australia was born as a nation, be a day of national rejoicing. Something can be said in favour of both these views, but, how-' ever the day is observed, that does not alter the principle that it should be a national day. The method of observance must be left to public sentiment. How can the Government insure that the holiday shall be observed in any particular way, except by passing special legislation to prohibit race meetings and the like being held on it?

Senator Reid - How are you going to make the States fall into Une with the Commonwealth in observing the holiday?

Senator FOSTER - Some i of the States two years ago observed Anzac Day as a holiday, but the Commonwealth offices were not closed. In the State of Tasmania I jestingly rang up the AttorneyGeneral and suggested that he should send the policemen down the bay for a holiday, as some returned soldiers were going to picket the post-office and other Commonwealth offices, to insure that no one worked there. I think that if the Commonwealth Government were to give a lead in the matter, and te approve of the day being observed as Australia's principal national day, it would then be possible to educate public opinion as to how the day should be observed.

Senator Russell - Anzac Day will always be the principal national day in Australia, but that could also be so if its observance were confined to the Sunday?

Senator FOSTER - It has been suggested that the memorial services in connexion with Anzac Day should be held on the Sunday nearest to the public holiday.

Senator Russell - It would not do to have the holiday observed on two different days.

Senator FOSTER - Special church services are often held to commemorate an occasion on the Sunday nearest to the day on which a holiday is generally observed. If Anzac Day is made a memorial day, it is very likely that special church services to com mem orate it will be held on the Sunday nearest to the date fixed for the general observance of the holiday. I think that we should say definitely in this Bill whether or not it is intended to observe this day about which so much has been said.

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