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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6208

Mr SYMON (Deakin) (09:56): Today I am presenting a petition signed by 194 retail workers from in and around the electorate of Deakin that calls on the federal government to recognise Easter Sunday as a public holiday. This petition was considered by the Standing Committee on Petitions on 11 May this year and certified as being in accordance with the standing orders.

This petition is also a response to the Baillieu Victorian Liberal government's actions this year. The Baillieu government forced the Shop Trading Reform Amendment (Easter Sunday) Bill 2011 through state parliament. It declared that Easter Sunday 2011 would not be a public holiday and workers could be required to work without receiving penalty rates. All other mainland Australian states recognise the significance of Easter Sunday except now for Victoria. Many people in my electorate who work in retail industries particularly are outraged. In comparison, the New South Wales state parliament unanimously legislated for Easter Sunday to be a public holiday.

As many Victorians know, when the state Liberal government of Jeff Kennett transferred the state's workplace relations powers to the Commonwealth in 1997, he kept hold of some particular conditions. One set of those conditions was the appallingly bad schedule 1A of the Workplace Relations Act, which kept hundreds of thousands of Victorians on lower wages with virtually no conditions. Another power that was kept was that of regulating public holidays in the state, and that is the very power that the Baillieu Liberal government is using to beat up on working people yet again.

The National Employment Standards already recognise Good Friday and Easter Monday as public holidays. This petition calls for the Fair Work Act to recognise Easter Sunday in the National Employment Standards. The constituents who signed this petition are calling for changes to the National Employment Standards for many reasons. One is that many of them attach a religious significance to Easter—and of course there are many people in the electorate who do. I know that around 64 per cent of Australians overall do. However, it is not just the religious significance of the break; it is also a long weekend for most people, with a well-earned four days in a row off work. It is also a traditional time in Australian culture for holidays, weddings, footy and quality family time. Having to go to work in the middle of a long weekend does not make it very long, and I think most of us would appreciate that. Why any of these people should be expected to forgo a family time on Easter Sunday and not even be properly compensated for it is a very good question. It is not just Australians, of course, who enjoy the Easter break period, as many, many countries around the world also have public holidays at this time.

I support this petition because the exception of Easter Sunday as a public holiday is not fair on my constituents working in the retail industry, nor is it fair on their families. I present the petition to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): If the situation is as the honourable member has advised us, and I have no reason to disbelieve his word, the petition will be received under standing order 207(b)(ii).

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of certain citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House that:

The Fair Work Act does not recognise Easter Sunday as a public holiday in the National Employment Standards. It does recognise Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Easter Sunday is a day of great significance for the 64% of Australians who identify as Christian and the 30% of Australians estimated to attend Easter Sunday Church services.

Easter Sunday is part of a recognised holiday break for all Australian people, Christian or not.

With the exception of Victoria, all mainland Australian States, as well as New Zealand, recognise the significance of Easter Sunday and require shops to close.

Indeed, the significance of Easter Sunday is widely recognised throughout the Western world by the fact that shops must close on this day in London, Paris, Rome, Milan and Montreal.

The Parliament of NSW unanimously legislated for Easter Sunday to be a public holiday.

We therefore ask the House to:

Amend the Fair Work Act 2009 so as to include, in the National Employment Standards, Easter Sunday in the list of recognised public holidays.

from 194 citizens

Petition received.