The value of two extra days off

Dunedin North MP David Clark makes the case for "Mondayising" Waitangi and Anzac days. Dr Clark's Holidays (Full Recognition of Waitangi Day and Anzac Day) Amendment Bill has its first reading in Parliament tomorrow.

ANZAC and Waitangi are of growing importance to our identity as New Zealanders and our sense of history. They deserve to have the full recognition that our other holidays get.

But there is a glitch that happens twice every seven years - when Waitangi or Anzac falls on a weekend. We miss out on the holiday we get other years. It happened last year. And it rankled. People got only nine public holidays instead of the usual 11.

My member's Bill, now before Parliament, fixes the glitch. It aims to make sure hard-working New Zealanders get the public holidays they deserve. The vote on its first reading happens tomorrow.

Waitangi and Anzac will still be celebrated on February 6 and April 25 respectively. What is new is that Kiwi workers will get a day off the following Monday to spend with friends and family.

And Kiwis deserve these holidays. The cost is negligible.

Government officials suggest there may even be a net benefit to the economy once the benefits of rested workers and boosted domestic tourism are taken into account.

We know rested workers are more productive than tired, overstressed ones. It is one reason holidays should never be viewed as simply a cost for businesses.

We also know that workers in wealthier countries tend to work fewer hours in paid employment than those in low-income countries.

For example, the average New Zealander works an hour or two longer every week in paid employment than an Australian worker. But they do not get paid as much.

The two extra days off every seven years that my Bill creates will not fix the problem of our long hours on its own - but it is a step in the right direction.

A number of other factors, including wage structures and access to capital, explain Australia's economic success - but that is a topic for another occasion. Suffice to say, higher wages and more leisure time also allow for more unpaid contributions to the community.

Despite our lower wages, one of my favourite things about Otago is that it is still a place people work to live rather than living to work.

Well spent leisure time is valuable to communities. The social capital that is derived from friendships, networks and unpaid work is difficult to measure, yet people can easily sense when a community has it - and when it does not.

In Otago, we have hobbies and get involved in communities in a way which is being lost further north. This quality of community is an important part of what makes the South a great place to live. We are good at it, but we could always be better.

By Mondayising Waitangi and Anzac, my Bill will achieve a little more time for people to be involved in their communities.

For that reason alone, I think it is worth doing.

Across the Ditch, seven out of eight Australian states already "Mondayise" both their national day and Anzac Day when they fall on a weekend. That is what my Bill will achieve for New Zealanders too.

Australian observers report a growing attendance at Anzac dawn services. It makes sense.

People are more likely to get up for dawn services on a Sunday morning when they know they can have a lie-in and time with the family on the Monday that follows.

I expect the same will happen here.

If my Bill progresses expeditiously, Waitangi and Anzac may have the same recognition as other holidays by year's end. It looks likely to happen; my Labour colleagues, the Green Party, New Zealand First, the Maori Party, United Future and the Mana Party have all pledged their support. I thank them for that.

Unfortunately, the importance of time with family, friends and wider community seems lost on the National Party. I am baffled at reports that the Government intends to oppose my Mondayising Bill. Even employers' groups and right-wing bloggers that usually support them think my Bill makes sense. The public of New Zealand are overwhelmingly in favour of it.

Only National and Act are opposed.

They seem increasingly out of touch.


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