12 September 2022

Public service told there would be no holiday for Queen's death

| Chris Johnson
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Condolence book for the Queen

Condolence book for Queen Elizabeth II at Old Parliament House. Photo: James Coleman.

Public servants were officially informed there would be no public holiday in Australia to mourn the Queen, despite Prime Minister Anthony Albanese deciding there would be.

As Australians woke Friday morning to the news that Queen Elizabeth II had died, a missive from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was sent to department and agency heads instructing them on how the public service should react to the news.

Under the title Australian Mourning Guidance and marked ‘sensitive’, the email ordered departments not to say anything about the monarch’s death until after the Prime Minister and the Governor-General had made their statements.

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It said that departments should “exercise discretion” on social media after that, particularly on the day of national mourning.

It also outlined a list of protocols to be observed and highlighted a course of events that would take place in Australia and the United Kingdom following the Queen’s death.

It specifically stated that “the national day of mourning will not be a public holiday” in Australia and that schools would stay open.

Just two days later, the Prime Minister announced on Sunday morning – after selectively informing some media outlets the night before – that 22 September would be the national day of mourning and a public holiday.

“It will be a one-off national public holiday to allow people to pay their respects for the passing of Queen Elizabeth,” Mr Albanese said.

The surprise announcement has left officials in the Prime Minister’s own department red-faced.

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PM&C’s memo was almost instantly made inaccurate and redundant by the Prime Minister himself, but not before agency bosses throughout the Australian Public Service had distributed news to staff that there would be no public holiday.

“It seems the Prime Minister made a captain’s call but forgot to tell the team,” one APS leader told Region.

The department’s ‘guidance’ appears to have been crafted sometime before Her Majesty’s death, with repeated references to “on the day of death”, as though it had not yet occurred, when instructing the public service how to behave.

It was not updated before its wide distribution.

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Protocols in the directions included an order not to drape the Queen’s photo with black cloth, flying flags at half-mast, and suggestions of dress codes for services – while also stating there is no official mourning attire.

The government has also come under fire for the time parliament has been suspended.

Parliament was meant to sit this week, but the PM adjourned it out of respect for the Queen, saying that protocol had long been in place.

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Pollies give themselves two weeks off from Parliament though

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