The government spent $50 million of our money telling us public holidays were Protected by Law (emphasis in original). So how is it a great victory for Barnaby Joyce to get amendments which mean that we can’t be sacked for working on Christmas Day[1]. Not that I’m bagging Joyce, who’s at least doing something. But it just points up the mendacity of the ad barrage to which we’ve been subjected.

fn1. If we’re lucky we may get Good Friday and Anzac Day protected as well.

30 thoughts on “Scrooged

  1. It is disgraceful that there is an IR revolution with the Liberal and National senators supporting such anti-state legislation.

    Dr Don Edgar has produced a Family Impact Statement for Unions NSW to fill the vacuum left by the Government. We were promised family impact statements before the last election and are still waiting. We were not promised an attack on people’s ability to pay bills and make a living. We got this anyway.

    Barnaby Joyce is new enough to want to make a difference. However he is only trying to save iconic public holidays – not public holidays in general. Without knowing the detail his protections may well turn out to be like those he got for Telstra – largely illusory.

    No doubt Barnaby Joyce would be discomfited to read the Family Impact Statement, – instead, no doubt after a lot of hand wringing, he will toe the party line. It will be too difficult to be sent to coventry by his colleagues.
    His colleagues who suggested changes but won’t insist are blameworthy too.

  2. We have to wait until the wording of the amendments are actually circulated, but I doubt Barnaby has really achieved even the minimal gain you have mentioned.

    According to AAP reports tonight, the Govt party room (the new replacement for the Parliament) has agreed that “An employee may refuse to work on a public holiday and cannot be dismissed or suffer prejudice for doing so.”

    Sounds nice, but if they work don’t work somewhere with fewer than 100 employees they may be in trouble, and even if they do, if their employer can say they are being sacked for ‘operational reasons’ they may still have no real comeback.

    Your comment about ‘not bagging Joyce’ is an interesting one. It is hard not to bag him because he is allowing things to become law on the basis of such flimsy ‘concessions’, but I agree that at least he is applying some genuine pressure, which is more than one can say for the other 38 government Senators.

    One could contrast how much he manages through applying his ‘balance of power’, compared to what the Democrats achieved in the past, but (1) that might lead to a partisan rant, which I think is a bit unseemly in the thinking segment of the blogosphere, and (2) should be pretty bloody obvious anyway.

  3. It doesn’t actually prove there was no safeguard before. It actually shows that Barnaby Joyce wanted a different safeguard and the government didn’t have a problem with doing that. While consistent with your position, JQ, this is also consistent with the present measure being redundant, i.e. belt and braces – it doesn’t show any admission that matters were inadequate before.

    Of course it doesn’t show they were adequate either. In fact it cnonveys no information on the point. But you certainly shouldn’t call it in aid of your prejudices, JQ.

  4. Joyce seems to me to be hopelessly out of his depth and makes rather fatuous statements,like his repitition of the statement that “if the voters don’t like this they can punish us at the next elections” Utter nonsense. Actually if they do it won’t be Joyce who gets the stick as he is just starting a six-year term ! Actually,listening to the tumult of comments on Victorian talk-backs it’s obvious a great many are worried for their penalty rates/overtime/holiday pay,etc. And I just love it when of these people say “I voted for Howard too”..well what did they expect!…and by God,they for it now. The Liberals are after all the real exponents of “clas warfare ” in this country,so their dumb voters who voted for them and now get it in their necks,are on a sharp learning curve,and this may be all to the good,come the next elections….just as George Bush and the Neo-Cons have given the American people a real lessons in international relations. Iraq will turn out to be a turning point ,like Vietnam. …likewise Howard’s “Thatcherite” period may be catastrophic for the Liberals here..

  5. The one thing that riled me about Barnaby’s demands was that it didn’t include the national holiday – Australia Day (as far as I saw in reports).
    For a government that proclaims itself as “Australian” (or national or federal) why isn’t Australia Day as important as religious or military or historical holidays?
    For the sake of disclosure, I’ve deep hostility to IR reform but – conceding we’ve lost – why isn’t the national holiday more important than it seems to be to the national government?

  6. The merits or no of IR reform aside, have you come round to my way of thinking on the $50 mill plus advert campaign John? Essentially I reckon it’s the logical progression of the slippery slope, starting with public funding of political parties. If it was good enough for the public to fund them before their bums were on the seats, then it would be inevitably seen as logical to fund their messages when they were. That’s where we’ve come to now. Not even a hint of any embarrassment at putting the cart before the horse now. Flogging a policy with taxpayer loot before it’s even law. Absolutely shameless, but it wouldn’t matter which party was in. It could just as easily be Labor flogging Medicare Gold as shamelessly now, before it was L.A.W, law. I reckon another slow cancer has resulted from the public funding of parties too. Who needs troublesome members, to get in the way of commandeering the punter’s loot now? Don’t you worry about that and leave it all to we wise factional heavies now.

  7. In hindsight I think public funding of political parties has not been the panacea ALP supporters might have thought, but rather may have been responsible for the ultimate devastation and desolation of its grass roots membership, federally speaking. When you don’t have to work hard for funds, you don’t have to work hard on membership either and this eventually flows over to not having to convince and bring the membership along with elite level policy thinking. You see this in the liberal party now with IR reform. There’s really been no grass roots, ground up conviction in the party, nor any visible attempt to inform and rally the troops behind what the leadership thinks is important policy. Joe Cambria, et al at Brookesnews point this out quite well. The attitude seems to be, tough it out and ignore the critics, because an election is 2 yrs away and there’s plenty of time to use the public purse then to sweeten the pill anyway. Basically now I think removing the need for parties to sing for their supper and hence membership, has been detrimental to the overall political process. Perversely it may have cost Federal Labor more dearly.

  8. Under the current system an iconic public holiday (or any other public holiday) is not “protected”.

    If a public holiday falls on a weekend, the gazetted holiday is usually the adjacent weekday (the Friday or the Monday). Currently a worker can refuse to work on the gazetted holiday only.

    Currently if Christmas Day (the most iconic holiday in Australia) falls on a Saturday, the gazetted holiday will be the following Monday. Workers who are rostered for work on the Saturday (the actual Christmas Day) cannot refuse, and are paid the regular Saturday rate, as they are NOT working a gazetted public holiday.

    Their co-workers who had Christmas and Boxing Day with their families, and are rostered for the Monday or Tuesday (the gazetted Christmas and Boxing Day holidays) can either refuse to work their shifts, or will work them for the full public holiday penalty rates on a day which is meaningless except that it is the “gazetted” Christmas Day holiday.

    Anyone who is outraged over the proposed “changes” is either feigning a lack of knowledge, or really has no knowledge of the practicalities of the current system.

  9. Steve, this is a quibble. Among the problems with your argument are that it applies only one year in seven to Christmas, and does not apply at all to Good Friday.

    More importantly, the fact that existing protection is not quite complete does not change the fact that the government is lying when it is says that existing rights are protected under its new laws.

  10. Classic bait and switch.

    The punters are choking on the spratt of what may or may not be an “iconic” public holiday and how they may or may not be permitted to observe it.

    Meantime, opponents of the bill are distracted from scrutiny of the huge implications of the bill for the distribution of power in the workplace.

    This is tactical, of course. Some opponents of the bill may have thought that Barnaby Joyce may have actually voted against the bill were he to have felt sufficient political pressure. Other more realistic opponents of the bill knew this was unlikely, yet saw “iconic” public holidays as a useful rhetorical, populist issue.

    How long will it be before we start hearing about “core iconic holidays” and “non-core iconic holidays”?

  11. Re Observa’s oft-repeated gripe about public funding of parties. The idea always was to relieve parties of some of the pressure to kowtow to corporate interests in order to raise the vast sums needed to run television election ads. The high point in this series of reforms was the ban on political ads introduced at the behest of a joint parliamentary committee by the Hawke Government in its dying days and subsequently overturned by the High Court. In the absence of public funding there is no way any party not articulating the wishes of capital could compete for votes in the mainstream, ie among tv watchers, at a prime time cost of over $10K per 30 second grab. The option of requiring tv and radio licence holders to air free political ads based on some formula gauging electoral support was never pursued, doubtless because of the power wielded by the proprietors – rentiers on the public tit par excellence. The free airtime option is pursued in plenty of European countries and to some extent on the ABC and SBS. I could go on about the debasement of political debate caused by the 30 second misleading grab as the centrepiece of campaign focus, but this isn’t the subject of this thread.

    On the IR issue – why does everyone swallow the Howard line that this is a ‘reform’ package? Wiktionary gives as definitions of reform (n) “Amendment of what is defective, vicious, corrupt, or depraved; reformation; as, reform of elections; reform of government”
    and reform (vb) “To put into a new and improved form or condition; to restore to a former good state, or bring from bad to good; to change from worse to better; to amend; to correct; as, to reform a profligate man; to reform corrupt manners or morals.
    To return to a good state; to amend or correct one’s own character or habits; as, a man of settled habits of vice will seldom reform.” I fail to see how a return to the old Masters and Servants Act pre-federation conditions of labour law constitutes a ‘reform’ package in any sense known to the English language. Presumably the reintroduction of capital punishment would in similar terms be classed as reform of the criminal justice system. Perhaps in a similar vein Howard’s spin merchants would have advised Hendrik Voewoerd to label the Group Areas and Morality Acts as a ‘community reform package’.

  12. Rather than spending this $$ on advertising, why didn’t the government INSTEAD provide every AUstralian with approx $2million dollars each. After that we could have made Howard PM for life.

  13. So, when all the Police and Nurses say they are not going to work on these special Public Holidays – what are we going to do? Just let them not fulfill their Duty?

    I grew up with a Mum who was a Nurse and pulled shifts on Christmas Day. Big deal – we coped as a family. I did Duty Officer in the Army on Christmas Day and Anzac Day (that really pissed me off!) and never got any extra pay.

    This is just crap. If an employee has a right to with hold labour as they see fit, an employer should have the same right to with hold employment.

  14. Excellent point Razor!

    JQ, a quick glance at my calendar reveals that Christmas falling on a weekend happens 2 years in 7. The fact that I am having a “quibble” in no way alters the reality of the current system.

    The government has absolutely been pulling our legs over this matter in their current (wasted) advertising.

    These are “among” the “problems” with my argument? I look forward to hearing of the other problems. In fact, I look forward to discovering what is wrong about my argument at all. Currently it is only gazetted public holidays which are protected, not the iconic day itself. I am not wrong. People DO WORK iconic public holidays without the ability to refuse, and without public holiday rates of pay.

    To listen to the the union movement and other commentators, one would get the impression that Christmas Day is currently “protected”.

    Good Friday is an iconic holiday for whom? For some it is an extra long weekend “whoopee!”, for others it is a time of great inconvenience. It doesn’t seem to hold the same place in the psyche of the nation as does Anzac Day. Hehe, Good Friday, (& Easter Monday) because of the tie to the day of the week, is the public holiday which never falls on a weekend.

    Some of the joy of Easter is mitigated by the day after Good Friday, Saturday, not being a public holiday in any way mean or form, and which people have to work regardless of the Friday, and Monday public holidays.

    We have far too many public holidays. At least half of them should be scrapped.

  15. “We have far too many public holidays”

    To be precise, we have 11 (12 in WA).

    Why can’t be we like the Dynamic Asian Economies? I’ll bet they don’t have all these public holidays.

    Let’s see … a bit of googling reveals that Singapore has 11, and Hong Kong have 16!

    Gee, that’s no good for the argument. What about the home of Free Enterprise, the United States? … they have 10.

  16. Dave Ricardo,
    Thank you for making the point. For far too long whingeing whining ratbags have been moaning that Australians somehow have have it far too good- On just about any measure you can name, in terms of employee protection, paid leave, hours of work and the like, employees in most other advanced industrial democracies (except the US), have as generous, or in many instances, far more generous arrangments. As to why we should have public holidays, or any other of the things that Steve and his ilk think should be scrapped, why shouldn’t increased productivity and wealth be devoted partly to making work less onerous and more enjoyable? Why is that an impermissable way to ‘spend’ some of the fruits of the productivty that every-one’s work contributes to?

    However employees in the hospitality and tourism industry are about to have their penalty rates clipped something severly next year. The employers union boss said so at the Senate Inquiry. I guess he was just kidding eh Steve-
    Your constant mantra that the government’s $55 million spin was the truth and that the union campaign was lies, should now be dropped before you look an even bigger idiot. Everyone knows why these laws were really introduced, and whom they will benefit-it’s boring

  17. Just as well that we cannot trust the employee and employer to work this out for themselves. We need legislation to protect us from our own rank stupidity and inability to work out what work days suit us.
    Otherwise this whole debate would be silly.

  18. Hal9000,
    “The idea always was to relieve parties of some of the pressure to kowtow to corporate interests in order to raise the vast sums needed to run television election ads.”
    I appreciate that was what was intended, but I question whether the eating of the pudding is proof of it. Firstly big corpora tend to give evenly to the 2 majors to hedge their bets and secondly I question whether the 30 sec grabs are of any benefit to the parties anyway. Just ask yourself what the govt’s $50 mill of grabs has achieved with Joe Public on IR? The polls would say nought. For all the money and hooha spent over the years, ask yourself when did the punters ever get it wrong, given the choices they faced? They are not sucked in by spin and big bucks advertising. IMO, all public funding has done is lift the spend bar and at the same time make pollies lazy and perhaps policy cautious. Now you daren’t suggest taking it away, because it’s become a way of life and a myth for Laborites. They almost believe that without public funding, Whitlam was never elected twice. Hawke and Keating won office by being the best policy choice at the time, but to listen to Laborites, you’d think that without public money they never could. It’s balderdash. Policy, competence and direction win elections. Just ask the state Premiers. Public funding is a copout and has made Federal labor soft and factional heavyweight ridden, much to its detriment. Having to get out doorknocking, manning talkback radio and public meetings is what it’s all about, but to do that you have to have a competent policy manual behind you and know it front to back. Now they leave it to the minders, pollsters and spin merchants and their 30 sec grabs. How are they doing?

  19. Dave Ricardo: I am surprised that the public holiday count in south-east asia is so low. They seem to be always having public holidays, what with them having public holidays for the muslim and buddhist festivals, in addition to the seemingly endless Hindu festivals. (Hindu religion = seems to be perpetually celebrating some festival or another) Are you absolutely certain you didn’t miss a few?

    This in no way alters the fact that we have far too many public holidays. We could easily dispense with Labour Day, Queen’s Birthday and Boxing Day (for starters).

  20. “We could easily dispense with Labour Day, Queen’s Birthday and Boxing Day (for starters).”

    Don’t forget Christmas. Bah! Humbug!

  21. What the fine senators need to address is the inherent inequities that will result from this legislation. Those who have responsibilities have no time or energy to “negotiate” with their employer except when they have no choice- they don’t need more arguments in their lives. Those able to retire will do so despite the need for workers. However pensions will be affected by the depression of wages.

    Iconic public holidays won’t include Labour Day – after all that is a celebration of the 8 hour day. Won’t need that one.

    The Coalitions Senators may hold their line – but they will sustain losses at the next election. At their last meeting they must have determined that they could get away with it.

    However the cutting of red tape in the Employer’s ads just makes me conscious of how much red tape will be created for employees and employers with the new laws. Every time the Coalition introduces reforms to simplify things, there are more complex rules and far, far more red tape.

  22. I am wondering what people think of the constitutionality of the whole ‘revolution’. Would anyone be surprised if at least Kirby J. rules that the government already has a relevant head of power in Section 51, and that’s the conciliation and arbitration power, so the law based on the corps power is invalid?

    After tomorrow, the whole debate shifts to the High Court – it’s just a question of what the Justices decide. Surely at least the states will be left with the rump of powers over state employees – the head of power under the corps power is not broad enough to cover state public sector workers, in my non-legal opinion.

    And another question for anyone versed in constitutional law: if there is a High Court challenge launched, say, once the Governor-General’s signature is on the Bill, can it be injuncted from becoming operational until the High Court rules on it?

    Just some thoughts and questions.



  23. just a random observation on ‘iconic’ public holidays. my 17 y.o. brother who worked at Subway was on an AWA which gave penalty rates on public holidays and listed the days considered public holidays including: christmas, easter, Queens Birthday, Adelaide Cup Day etc. in fact every public holiday i could think of, except Labor Day! it covered that one with ‘and anyother day gazetted as a public holiday.’

    the substance of the AWA was significantly worse than the award even under the ‘no disadvantage’ test. as my brother asked: ‘do the liberals really think that employers will negotiatie the terms of an AWA with employees or do they just not care?’

  24. This in no way alters the fact that we have far too many public holidays.

    So this idiot’s opinion is a ‘fact’!

    This is just crap. If an employee has a right to with hold labour as they see fit, an employer should have the same right to with hold employment.

    If only!! Under the new NoChoice law, strikes are all but prohibited, whereas employers can pull lock-outs with three days notice no questions asked. Advance Australia fair.

  25. The quote marks fell out, to repeat., with quote marks:

    “This in no way alters the fact that we have far too many public holidays.”

    So this idiot’s opinion is a “fact”!

    “This is just crap. If an employee has a right to with hold labour as they see fit, an employer should have the same right to with hold employment.”

    If only!! Under the new NoChoice law, strikes are all but prohibited, whereas employers can pull lock-outs with three days notice no questions asked. Advance Australia fair.

  26. Reading Steve at the Pub makes me realise that class war is only practiced by those who seek more if they are poor and relatively powerless. If you are not poor, and have a lot, complaining about those who have less, and finding ways to take what they have from them, is not class war, it is just sensible and rational economics. I get it now.

  27. Hey I had a serious question – can anyone tell me about the High Court’s involvement (see above)?


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