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New Northern Territory public holiday should ring alarm bells in Canberra

"The silly season looks to have arrived early in the Northern Territory with the Government's moves to create two new part day public holidays over Christmas and New Year," Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, said today.

"Imposing public holidays between 7pm and midnight ahead of already gazetted holidays will impose big costs on businesses and the community.

"To pay for the significantly increased and unbudgeted penalty rates, businesses will be forced to either wear the costs, restrict operations and put off staff, or put up prices.

"South Australia implemented similar arrangements a few years ago and so many complications arose that every federal award now contains a schedule which attempts to address some of these complications.

"The NT is the latest jurisdiction to announce unnecessary public holidays through the imposition of huge cost increases on businesses to deliver a populist measure with demonstrably negative economic consequences.

"From the Footy Friday holiday in Victoria, to the new Easter Sunday public holiday in Queensland, to the part-day Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve public holidays in South Australia, and Family and Community Day in the ACT – the situation is getting worse not better. State and Territory Governments are tripping over each other in the rush to see who can be the most profligate with businesses' money.

"Evidence from research conducted in other states suggests the economy is the biggest loser when additional public holidays are proclaimed.  An Ai Group survey, for example, identified an estimated cost of at least $1 billion in lost sales for Victorian businesses, with a $500-million-dollar wage bill lumped on top, as a result of the AFL Grand Final Public Holiday.

"This public holiday proliferation should be ringing alarm bells in Canberra and we urge the Federal Government to work to deliver common sense to holidays across the country.

"What is needed is for State and Territory Governments to work with the Federal Government to agree that there will be no more than 11 public holidays per year in each State and Territory.

"In its draft report on Australia's Workplace Relations Framework, the Productivity Commission recommended amendments to the Fair Work Act to ensure that employers are not required to pay for leave or additional penalty rates on any newly designated State and Territory public holidays.  This draft recommendation is eminently sensible and it should be implemented as a matter of urgency.

"Through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), a nationally consistent approach to public holidays needs to be developed in respect of: the quantum of public holidays; the days on which public holidays which are recognised in each State and Territory are held; and the substitution of certain public holidays which fall on weekends rather than declaring additional days.

"Steps have to be taken now to discourage State and Territory Governments from such a bread and circuses approach to public policy," Mr Willox said.

Media Enquiries: Tony Melville – 0419 190 347