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Thursday, 22 April 1971

Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) - As Chairman I present the report of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on Sunday observance in the Australian Capital Territory.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator MARRIOTT - by leave- 1 move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The unanimous acceptance by the people of the Australian Capital Territory and by the Government of the report on the Sunday observance inquiry, which T have tabled, is unlikely. This is because philosophical issues on which we all make value judgments, are at the centre of the question my Committee has had to consider. The report makes recommendations about the use of leisure time by people in the ACT, including its many visitors, on Sundays and because these recommendations broaden the legal scope of possible activities, some groups may have misgivings about our report. Nonetheless, I say to the Senate, the Government and the people that I believe the report's recommendations truly reflect the weight of evidence which had relation to the Committee's terms of reference. More than this, the recommendations, if implemented, will ensure the creation of an atmosphere in Canberra in which there should be a wholesome enjoyment of leisure and the opportunity for the satisfaction of the needs of a wide spread of age groups, creeds and cultures. I point out that our inquiry was widely publicised, and it was held in public. Witnesses were keenly sought, and those desiring to be heard were heard and their evidence was tested. Finally, all the evidence, together with much relevant legislation and much research material on the question of Sunday observance in the 1970s, was examined and carefully weighed in the balance.

If the report is accepted in toto, I believe there will be written into the statutes of the Australian Capital Territory a set of rules for the observance of Sunday which, as time passes, will result in the achievement of the goal at which the Committee aimed. I believe that we have truly reflected what was in the minds and hearts of the public spirited people, from many spheres of activity, who proferred evidence to us. Attitudes, desires and rights of people change. The Committee became aware, early in the inquiry, of the desire of some sections of the community for change. It was equally obvious that all sections realised a change was not only understandable but also inevitable. Parliaments, governments and bureaucracies do not have to grant requested claims but surely they do right to grant them; or, as in our case, recommend them when they agree with the case put to them for those changes.

During the inquiry, there was mention for and against a 'continental' Sunday. We could obtain no acceptable definition of this widely used term, which has been bandied about for many years. My research brought to light an interesting quote from the 'Hobart Mercury' of Saturday. 13th October 1928, under the heading 'The Mainland Day by Day - Melbourne'. It refers to a number of church bodies, whose names I will omit as I wish to ridicule or offend no one. The article pointed out that the church bodies deplore our drift towards a 'continental' Sunday. It went on to state:

MrHinkler's arrival on a Sunday, the establishment of a Sunday train service between Melbourne and Sydney and Melbourne and Adelaide, and Mr Clapp's Sunday trains between Melbourne and the provincial centres . . . were adduced as evidence of 'disquieting signs of a moral drift which imperils the State'. Unless something is done these things will end in a 'continental' Sunday. This shibboleth of the 'continental' Sunday had its roots in the early and mid-Victorian idea that a Frenchman was naturally immoral, the chief evidence of which was that he and his family made merry on cream puffs and well watered wine on their one weekly holiday.

Our aim has been to achieve the principle that the law and its administration should recognise the rights and responsibilities of persons and organisations to pursue, in a satisfying variety of ways, activities consistent with the observation of the day as one of spiritual, social and physical recreation and the enjoyment of leisure. We uphold the principle of the importance of church and family life, but we have also listened to the pleas on behalf of that heavy percentage of young people who are hostel or flat dwellers and we have recognised that the continually increasing large number of visitors flocking to our national capital must be given due consideration.

Yes, liquor will be more readily available, but I would point out that it is not the ready availability of alcohol or the proliferation of points of sale which causes the abuse of alcohol, and there has never been a law prohibiting its consumption on Sunday. The present law places members of i. censed clubs and their friends in a strictly favoured position and leads others to break the law in pursuing activities regarded by present day values as unobjectionable. Some of our recommendations are aimed at bringing an end to this favouritism and to legislate for all sections of the community. Other recommendations seek to provide legally more scope for both participatory and spectator sport and allow for the sale on Sundays of the type of goods that families and visitors require.

Lifting some restrictions may lead to increased Sunday employment; a matter to which my Committee gave close attention. In seeking a fair deal for all concerned in this matter and realising that various awards govern the rights of those who do work for wages in respect to overtime and hours of employment, the Committee has found it wise to include it its recommendations one which reads:

That legislation be enacted to provide against compulsory employment of any person in the capacity of an employee on a Sunday and, further, providing that refusal to work on Sunday should not prejudice employment.

T pay my personal tribute to all those who had any part in the inquiry culminating in this report and I am particularly grateful to my colleagues who have enabled me to produce a unanimous report. I stand by each of the recommendations we have made in the belief that, if put into law, they will help to provide, without amendment for many years, the means by which those who are in the ACT on Sundays may lead useful, happy, and if they desire, leisurely lives amongst their families and their friends.

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