Adding insult to injury, the Victorian government’s decision to introduce yet another public holiday is doing foodservice operators no favours, writes Tony Berry.

THAT is exactly what was needed.

The stock market has been sliding downwards faster than toboggans at Thredbo. Mining and manufacturing are struggling in the face of falling prices and profits. And the Aussie dollar will soon rank on a par with Monopoly money.

It was in the face of such dire conditions that the keen brains and deep thinkers who control the daily lives – and purse strings – of the unfortunate residents of Victoria decided to add yet another public holiday to an already overcrowded list.

And for what? Not to celebrate an actual event scheduled for this day of public rest and recreation. But for the day before.

Rather than apply their minds and resources to sorting out the state’s myriad problems, the regulators decided they would win more hearts and minds by providing yet one more break from the ardours of the daily grind – or, rather, enable the many who have to, or choose to, work on regardless to earn double what they would normally be paid.

Another public holiday to add to the list. Image:

Yes, Thank God It’s Friday. So much better for the rank and file of the workforce. In this lotus-eating land of the five-day, nine-to-five week many more make a pretence of being gainfully employed on a Friday than would be the case on the actual day of the Grand Final, which is already widely treated as an acceptable excuse for downing tools.

According to Small Business Minister Philip Dalidakis, “Grand Final Friday presents itself as a great opportunity to celebrate Australia’s national game and spend more time with our family, friends and loved ones.” Which is a nonsense on so many counts, apart from the basic mistruth of the game’s elevated status when compared with other sports.

How many up and down this wide brown land will actually use this added public holiday to “celebrate” this so-called national game? More likely they will be rubbing their hands with more glee than Shylock gazing into a butcher’s window as they contemplate the unjustifiable extra payment their employers will be compelled to make.

Meanwhile the entire hospitality industry reels from yet another blow to its bottom line as it wonders how a person with a title suggesting he has the welfare of small business at heart can sincerely believe in making such an idiotic decision.

To rub salt into an already painful wound, the man’s boss, Premier Daniel Andrews, came up with the even more ridiculous (and blindingly obvious) comment that businesses were opposing public holidays because they didn’t want penalty rates. Doh! Really?

Premier Daniel Andrews. Image:

Has he not considered why they don’t want yet one more occasion on which penalty rates apply? Especially when the reason for this added impost does not even occur on the day in question. Next thing, Messrs Dalidakis and Andrews will be declaring 25 January as an Australia Day holiday and moving Anzac Day to 26 April, or whatever date that takes their fancy. There will be statewide holidays for the Formula One grand prix, the Stawell Gift and the final of the trugo (yes, it exists) championships.

Heaven help us, but Victoria already seems to think it’s a matter of international pride and honour that the first Tuesday in November, and several days beforehand, brings the state to a standstill for a horse race.

True to form, the Australian Industry Group condemned ‘Football Friday’. AIG Victoria director Tim Piper declared it bad news for the state and produced numerous figures to amply prove his point, mostly based on the number of businesses that will close on the day with consequent loss of production and revenue while still being slugged for wages.

But as it’s a holiday – a day of recreation, fun, relaxation and all the other pleasures upon which our industry depends and thrives – it will mean open, not closed, doors for hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs. And a massive great and unjustifiable chunk added to their wage bill.

Like a hotelier of my acquaintance who has to pay $40 an hour to a dishwasher who has to be classified as a kitchen hand and yet refuses to undertake “extra” tasks such as basic salad, vegie and dessert preparation.

One answer is to shift the loading on to customers’ bills.  Can’t you just hear the vociferous complaints that would bring? The alternative is to join everyone else and simply close down for the day. Back to the 50s everyone and see how you like that.

Either way, we might at last get some wider community understanding of why, in this 24/7 world, penalty rates have become an anachronism bordering on insanity.

So moving forward, mark 2 October down as Foolish Friday, Fatuous Friday, Lunatic Friday, Crackpot Friday … anything but Grand Final Friday. There’s nothing grand about such ill-thought decisions.


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