20 April 2022

Government to force all APS staff to take national holidays on observed days

| Ian Bushnell
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Australia Day is one of three public holidays that APS staff will have to take on the observed day. Photo: Supplied.

The Federal Government appears to have opened a front in the culture wars in the midst of an election campaign by moving to force Commonwealth public servants to take three key national holidays on the observed date and not substitute them for another day off.

The move may provoke controversy as limiting the options of those who may not wish to mark these days for cultural or reasons of personal belief and flies in the face of workplace trends.

Public Service Minister Ben Morton wants APS staff to take Australia Day, Anzac Day and the Queen’s Birthday public holidays on the observed date and not substitute them for other days. An amendment to the Public Sector Workplace Relations Policy 2020 will ensure this is the case in any new enterprise agreement.

The direction to the Australian Public Service Commission was issued on 8 April, just before the election was called.

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The APSC has now issued a new Circular to APS agencies and other Commonwealth employers notifying them of an amendment to the Public Sector Workplace Relations Policy 2020, saying it was a government expectation that people could only take the holidays on the recognised dates in their state or territory.

The APSC says that from now on, the amendment will be taken into account when considering new enterprise agreements.

The amendment won’t affect current arrangements, but all APS agencies, non-APS Australian Government entities and Members of Parliament staff will be required to implement it when making new enterprise agreements.

A government spokesperson did not say what had prompted the change.

“Our national days are incredibly important and should be recognised appropriately,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s appropriate and right that APS agencies recognise our national days.

“Australia Day is our very own national day and is a time for coming together to reflect, respect and celebrate the best of our nation.

“Anzac Day commemorates the lives of all Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations and is a day of reflection that all Australians recognise and honour.

“It’s fitting to recognise the role of the Queen in our proud democracy, and as a mark of respect to Her Majesty’s life of public service, amendments to the Policy include the Queen’s Birthday public holiday.”

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The APSC says it will work with Agencies on drafting relevant clauses for enterprise agreements as necessary.

Enterprise agreements contain clauses for public holidays to be substituted, and the APSC has said previously that some staff use them for cultural or religious reasons.

But sensitivities around Australia Day, in particular, may spark concern about the amendment from Indigenous staff and sympathisers who view the day as a tragic watershed in the history of First Nations people.

UNSW Canberra Associate Professor Sue Williamson from the Public Service Research Group said it appeared the Minister had chosen public holidays which were associated most strongly with Australian national identity.

“I can’t see what the logic is behind this or what the evidence base is for this,” Associate Professor Williamson said.

“We know that First Nations people, for example, might very well choose not to celebrate Australia Day and want to have their celebrations on a different day which doesn’t have so much trauma for them,” she said.

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She said it went against the spirit of cultural diversity and workplace trends.

“We’ve seen in workplaces over the past decade that there has been an increase in days of significance for various communities and to not allow these particular ones to be transferred strikes me as curious,” she said.

She said the celebration of Australia Day itself was fraught and it was a bigger issue that needed to be looked at.

“I don’t think it sends a particularly good message to various diversity groups,” she said.

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adamsmith1977cbr4eva11:12 am 04 May 22

Not sure how this can be effectively and fairly implemented given three factors:
1. Differences in States and territories gazetted public holidays
2. On call & 24/7 rosters in some areas
3. How do managers handle employees wanting to take the same public holidays as family/spouses in same household?

Crazed_Loner6:28 pm 22 Apr 22

This seems to be a desperate and facile attempt to ignite a fake culture war. If Oz Day or Anzac Day fall on a weekend, ordinary public servants aren’t working on the weekend anyway; if it falls on a weekday, then they’re not working on those official public holidays, so don’t need to ‘swap’ it for another day. As for the Queen’s Birthday holiday, it’s not on her actual birthday, it’s not on a set day and it’s not even celebrated on the same day or even at all in all jurisdictions.
It’s a solution looking for a problem.

These days of ‘national significance’ are to celebrate Australia’s people and Australia’s Western culture. Whether you personally believe in these things or are religious or not is not the issue; rather it is a celebration of the culture and tradition of Australia to celebrate Labor Day, Christmas Day, Easter, Anzac Day, New Years Day etc. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are also celebrated. In some States (e.g. Victoria) they celebrate events that are special to that State like the Melbourne Cup. Yes, these are Western holidays and traditions we celebrate, as we are a Western culture and society. If you want to stay home and not participate, then stay at home. I know people who don’t like horse racing (or cruelty to horses), so they don’t participate in any Melbourne Cup events. Of course, the usual suspects (those who want us to live under communist regime like the left wing extremists) will always protest against anything to do with Western culture (which is ironic as freedom to protest is a value of Western democracy) and they want to get rid of the main culture of the land, so they can put in place their alternate regime.

I always wondered where the commies went. Turns out, all along they have been under the bed.

You don’t seem to be under the bed at all. I’ve never understood people who clearly hate Western democracy and Western culture and values, yet want to live in a Western democratic society. Why not move to a communist country?

jorie1, given you have repeatedly averred that for you, forever=5 years, I won’t rush to take your advice on the history of philosophical and rational thought in any broad culture.
Your posts here and below, by the way, are ridiculous fantasies. Are you trying for that?

Crazed_Loner3:41 pm 22 Apr 22

You were doing so well in putting your view until you seemingly couldn’t help yourself lapsing into the sad little trope of labelling people with a different view as the “usual suspects” and then going name-calling nuclear with ” left-wing extremists” and accusations of Communism.
No, just because someone else might have a different view about historical events doesn’t automatically make them a Communist. On the contrary, you show yourself to be of a conformist, authoritarian mindset yourself, unwilling to tolerate others’ free thought and speech (as well as seemingly unfussed about the growing right-wing extremism). A thinking person can examine and question the historical orthodoxy, and perhaps interrogate whether these orthodoxies are part-mythological in nature, and want to make Australia a better place by advocating change, rather than keeping every remnant of White Australia colonial and post-colonial thinking set in stone forever. You don’t sound like someone who thinks about those things very deeply.
I, for one, think of Australia Day as First Antipodean Penal Colony Establishment (2nd Attempt) Day because it has absolutely nothing to do with the foundation of Australia as a federated nation, let alone in its symbolism for indigenous Australians. As for the Queen’s Birthday, just exactly what is it that we are celebrating on that particular (moveable) date?

If we don’t act in solidarity on our national days what hope of coming together to defend the nation in time of peril? Whether you like Australia Day or Anzac Day or not we are ‘all in the same boat’ and share a common destiny.

I am not sure your logic follows, Petronius. For example, I think nothing of christmas. Does that mean I can share no future with fellow-Australians? Picking specific dates or events (fanciful or not) as essential for unity misunderstands culture.

I fail to see how you can express unity with your country men and women while refusing to join with them in recognising national memorial days . Such refusals may not be decisive in subjective sentiments of unity but they are publicly and visibly divisive and disrespectful. Solidarity begins and ends by demonstrating unity.

“I fail to see…”
“Solidarity begins and ends by demonstrating unity”
Unity of what? You may need to think about that some more.
I’ll say no more about it.

Crazed_Loner3:52 pm 22 Apr 22

It sounds like you want conformity much more than unity. What’s next, monitoring people for attendance? Your argument is fatuous.
We can actually believe in different things and still be patriotic Australians. We have different political parties, after all. Unity and strength actually come from diversity, not conformity

Capital Retro7:14 am 21 Apr 22

““Australia Day is our very own national day and is a time for coming together to reflect, respect and celebrate the best of our nation.”

So, why did you choose an image that reflects to view that the same date is to some un-Australian people is “invasion day”?

26 January was a day decided by a very select group of people and given the commentary on it, it obviously doesn’t represent “our very own national day”. People who can’t get past that and agree to selecting an independent day that reflects all Australians are the un-Australian ones. Grow up.

Joe Colbert,
What day do you suggest then?

And what do you think should happen if another group complains about the day you want? Do we change it every year to suit a minority of complainants?

You give me an idea, chewy. There are about 11 public holidays. Each year, about six months beforehand, we hold a public drawing to randomise fully the date assignments of those public holidays for the following calendar year. Every year a new adventure. No arguments about what any of it means. Call each day what you like, including “a day off”.
I may not get universal support for this.

Capital Retro4:12 pm 21 Apr 22

I have grown up and the people and messages in the image do not reflect what Australia day is to all Australians.

Why on earth pick 11 random days that mean nothing to most people in Australia? Most Australians enjoy traditions like Christmas time. Even if you are not religious (I am not), I enjoy the carols and singing and remembering my friends, family (deceased) relatives and previous Christmas times. I’m sorry you don’t have any nice memories or traditions to celebrate, but please don’t begrudge the rest of us (the majority of us) who like participating in Australian traditions and Australian Western culture.

As I’ve asked elsewhere, why have public holidays at all then?

We can all be free individuals who pick our own holidays and not care about what days others find important.

However, in reality, I think that these days are actually important for promoting social cohesion, our own unique Australian culture and a shared sense of national identity.

You may not see that or think it’s important but I disagree.

The principal benefit of declared public holidays is that everyone knows that pretty much everyone will be off at the same time, and can plan accordingly.
It would be pointless to argue the [de]merits of any particular event, except to note that the “meanings” can be wildly different for different people. As i tried saying to Petronius, compulsion does not breed unity; at least, not of a type I would like (compare any current dictatorship).

Public holidays are by their very nature a form of compulsion.

If they exist, they should be universal to the area that has mandated them and I see very clear benefits of doing so.

Chewy, you missed or misunderstood my point about compulsion, which was about belief, not my flippancies around dates. See Petronius and some1. Imposed conformity of meaning or interpretation is neither democratic nor “western culture”. Yes, I know one can, as it were, change the channel. Many Australians do.

I don’t get it…
If you truly hated Jan 26 why would you be working for the public service?

Do they not enjoy working, why not find another job.

I also don’t get “first nations people”? Didn’t we all come from Africa, Africa is clearly the first nation?
One of the reasons my ancestors and yours left was due to climate change!

Why even have official public holidays at all if they can be substituted?

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