Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Keep Labour Day!

Yesterday Victoria enjoyed a public holiday. No, it was not Moomba Day, even if the TV coverage seems to suggest this. It was Labour Day, a special holiday for the working people – or as Kevin Rudd would say: the working families.

I did not notice any celebrations of members of the working class. All streets were quiet, well, except for the noise from the Moomba parade, which you could not avoid. One TV station briefly interviewed a worker, who is about to lose her job due to Pacific Brands closing all production plants in Australia. But even she was not in the mood to go out into the street and let the Victorians know about her anger and frustration. Could anyone spot an ALP march for the worker's rights?

Unlike our republicans friends I don’t propagate the abolition of Labour Day for lack of interest. The media did not even lead an attack against Labour Day, unlike their well-prepared though ill-written articles against Queen’s Birthday holiday or Australia Day. Last year The Canberra Times led the squadron: “The focus of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend was raised in Parliament in June 2000, where the relevance and significance were questioned by the Hon John Hatzistergos. An almost identical article to Ms Sherlock’s was run in today’s The Age. I’m not a die hard Monarchist, a Children’s Day (sorry I don’t raise goats) sounds plausible. I know this might sound kind of out there, but maybe we could incorporate ‘Children’s Day’ in the ‘Family Day’ we now celebrate in November?

Emily Sherlock's article demanded: "Instead of honouring our monarch we could soon be honouring our children, with the minister calling for the Queen's Birthday break to be renamed the Kids' Day long weekend."

In The Age Michael Cooney favoured a “Kid’s Day” as well: "This year should be the last Queen's Birthday long weekend. It's time to replace a holiday based on the past with a holiday based on the future. So next year, the first Monday in June should be a new public holiday: Kids' Day." A reply to Sherlock's and Cooney's suggestions can be read here and here.

Of course we had a "Children's Day" in Victoria. It was part of the tradition of the Royal Show for over 120 years before it was abolished by the Kennett conservative government in the mid 1990s. The Age seems to have forgotten that.

The Age, of course, was more robust in its refusal of our Monarch’s birthday holiday: “Queen's birthday holiday gets to the heart of what it means to be Australian today, when only a minority of the population can relate to the redundant symbols and trappings of monarchy and colonialism … in 1958 Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day, and the official holiday was withdrawn due to lack of interest and relevance and has now rightly faded into obscurity”.

Who decided that Commonwealth Day was redundant or people did not care for a public holiday? Probably the same sort of politicians that decided we didn't want a Children's Day!

Lack of interest and relevance” could be equally attributed to Labour Day. Should The Age’s criteria be used for the upholding of Labour Day, then it will might “rightly faded into obscurity”, as the editorialist had wished for Queen’s Birthday holiday. I could cite likeminded opinion pieces on Australia Day.

But contrary to the outspoken republicans I can assure the working class, that I fully support having Labour Day holiday here and elsewhere. I think that it serves honouring employees and those people who are self-employed, but depend on the goodwill of employers as well.

I don’t want it changed to a "work-relations day" or to the official Moomba Holiday. I want it as a reminder of the work of the people that is done quietly, but without which this country would not function. At the same time I claim Queen’s Birthday holiday not just for the Monarchists, but for our history and our future, because it reminds us of the overall good functioning democracy in Australia. Labour Day and Queen's Birthday holiday are two sides of the same coin.

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