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NRA slams Qld’s “outrageous” public holiday move

The National Retail Association (NRA) is holding a press conference outside the Queensland Parliament Annexe today to protest the Palaszczuk government’s decision to push through legislation to make Christmas Eve a partial public holiday in the state.

“It’s a very outrageous decision by the government to go against an independent report that recommended against doing this,” Dominique Lamb, NRA CEO, told Inside Retail, referring to a report commissioned by a previous Labor government into the viability of the scheme.

“[The] report came to a conclusion based on research and consultation with industry, and this government has absolutely failed to meaningfully consult with industry.”

The NRA released a statement earlier this month in conjunction with several prominent Queensland industry groups, including the Chamber of Commerce & Industry Queensland, urging the government to reconsider its proposal.

The Australian Retailers’ Association (ARA) has also come out against the decision.

“There is not one organisation saying it’s a good idea,” Lamb said.

The proposal, which is expected to be introduced as legislation today, would make Christmas Eve a public holiday from 6pm.

The move would enable workers on the retail, fast food and pharmacy awards to earn the public holiday penalty rate (225 per cent of normal wages for full-time and part-time staff and 250 per cent for casuals) from 6pm on Christmas Eve, one of the busiest trading days of the year for retailers.

Documents released during the consultation period showed the extra wages could cost Queensland businesses between $41.3 million and $136.9 million.

However, this estimate is based on the number of employees who worked on Christmas Day in 2011, when trading is restricted for many businesses, and employer association Ai Group believes the actual cost could be three times higher, Brisbane Times reported.

“For a government to ignore the evidence and turn its back on small business is outrageous,” Lamb said.

Lamb has previously made the argument that public holidays are a political issue that become hotly debated ahead of elections.

While business leaders typically support efforts to reduce public holidays and loosen trading restrictions, emphasising the boost they give to the local economy by staying open, unions – and the politicians they support – say workers deserve to spend public holidays at home with their families, as other Australians do.

The Shop & Distributive Allied Employees Association (SDA) supports the Christmas Eve partial public holiday. South Australia and the Northern Territory are the only two other states or territories with similar legislation on the books.

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