The Guardian April 21, 1999


Lest we forget

"They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not 
weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the 
morning, we will remember them. Lest we forget." That small ode has 
profound meaning for generations of Australians, but for a few individuals 
 e.g. Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett  it is seen as an opportunity to 
push a political agenda.

This year all states except Victoria and Tasmania will be marking Anzac 
Day, Sunday April 25, with a public holiday on the Monday of April 26.

The Victorian Government did not list April 26 in its gazette as a public 
holiday, but unions in that state are standing firm. The Construction 
Division of the CFMEU is leading the way, calling on its members to take 
the day off and demand full pay. 

Behind Kennett are the employers. The Victorian Employers' Chamber of 
Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, the Master Builders 
Association of Victoria: all are chorusing howls of protests. The aim is to 
wipe public holidays altogether, and they're not going to pass up a great 
chance with Anzac Day falling on a Sunday.

The Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) pointed out that the Kennett 
Government could avoid any controversy by following the leads of the other 
states who have declared Monday a public holiday.

"The VTHC does not have a clear policy of calling on workers to stop work 
on Monday, April 26, and take a holiday", said VTHC Secretary, Leigh 
Hubbard. "Clearly the day has not been gazetted as a public holiday in 
Victoria and the vast majority of workers would not be paid for the day.

"However, where unions have called on their members to stop on that day and 
it is likely they will be paid for that day, we would support their 
actions."

The VTHC has put forward reasons why Anzac Day should be marked as a public 
holiday:

* Anzac Day is an important national event and ought to be marked as a 
public holiday when the actual day falls on the weekend. The following 
Monday should be gazetted as a public holiday (as is the case with 
Christmas Day and Boxing Day). Unless we mark the day in this way, we risk 
the loss of its significance to the community as our aging veteran 
population passes on.

* Victoria is virtually alone in not declaring a substitute holiday when 
Anzac Day falls on the weekend. There ought to be national uniformity. If 
it is good enough for other states to declare a public holiday on Monday 
then it ought to be good enough for Jeff Kennett and Victoria.

* We live in an era when hours of work have increased dramatically for 
those in full time work and the work effort is much more intense. Stress 
and overwork injuries are becoming more prevalent. Where there is an 
opportunity to provide a break for workers, this should be taken.

Mr Hubbard said the VTHC may consider a new test case before the Australian 
Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) to broaden the previous 1994 test 
case decision on public holidays.

Last Monday the AIRC rejected unions' application to have April 26 
recognised as a public holiday.

The minimum standards set by that test case did not provide for a 
substitute holiday where Anzac day falls on a weekend but it did recognise 
additional holidays as gazetted by state or territory governments.

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