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Public Holidays Don't Work

21 comments | 2:16 am | top |
The title of this post is very misleading. I am a supporter of a country having days which it sets apart as public holidays. However, I am opposed to restrictions against working on public holidays. You could rephrase the title then, "On public holidays, don't work".

"New Zealand's Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal Act 1990 specifies three-and-a-half days each year on which most New Zealand retailers must close – Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and until 1pm on Anzac Day." - Department of Labour.

What gives our Government the right to dictate hours or days in which two consenting parties may not conduct business? It is completely tyrannical and unjust for the state to declare that trading on arguably arbitrary days of the year should be illegal, on threat of a fine of up to $1000. Easter Sunday isn't even a public holiday; it is in fact, classed as a "religious day". Why the heck should all non-Christians be compelled to observe a religious day that they do not even hold sacred?

But that is merely the beginning of the traditionalist madness. Some stores are allowed to remain open. Garden centres, petrol stations, daries (corner-stores), souvenir shops, fast-food restaurants and pharmacies are granted exemption from the trading restrictions on these three-and-a-half days. I find it hard to believe that our Parliament is paid with taxpayer dollars to come up with such stupid, pathetic, pedantic and arbitrary legislation as this. Why 1pm on Anzac Day? Why garden centres

Regulatory Reform Minister Rodney Hide - a long-time campaigner against the Easter trading laws - has called the red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy "ridiculous". "Garden centres can open on Easter Sunday but the Mitre 10 hardware shop nearby, which also sells plants, can't," he said in March. - Stuff, 4/10/09

Of all our public holidays, I see Anzac day as being the most worthy of being honoured by the nation with trading restrictions, although even then it is hard to reconcile this with the freedom of the people to go about their business as they see fit. Anzac day is truly an event that our whole country can and should embrace, honouring the brave men and women who sacrificed so much for us; apathetic and ungrateful generations that we are.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog commented in his Annual Rant on Easter Trading, "I doubt there is any law as inconsistent and illogical as our current Easter shop trading laws... And that is before we even deal with regional anomalies. Shops in Queenstown can open, but not Wanaka. Taupo is okay, but not Rotorua". Fellow-Christian blogger Dave at Big News writes, "As far as I'm concerned, if [Easter Sunday] is not a public holiday, the shops can stay open, and I don't care what other Christians think of that." Dave should probably be consistent and go further to say that shops should be be open or close at their own discretion.

Lucyna Maria at NZ Conservative blog takes up the (surprise!) conservative line, "All I really have to say is that if NZ enforcing a religious holiday that harks back to the distant past when Sunday was a no-work day and one of the last vestiges of our Christian heritage, if that is a bad thing, then God help us... Seriously, there are worse things than having one Sunday of the year enforced as a mandatory day off". Lucyna employs a bad argument though. The fact that there are "worse things" than banning trading on Easter Sunday does nothing to redeem an inane law. And who's to say that "enforcing a religious holiday" necessarily entails criminalising people who wish to trade on that religious holiday?

Laila Harre, spokeswomen of the National Distribution Union says, "Our Easter trading laws are not just silly rules, they are there to ensure a bare minimum of non-trading days that celebrate and encourage family life, community activity and religious observances over narrow commercial interest." - Stuff, 9/4/09

Finally, I must disagree with my friend Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First...

The two bills before Parliament that would extend shop trading to all or some locations on Good Friday and Easter Sunday have not had time to be debated and therefore won’t apply this Easter.
“That is great news for workers,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First. “As families throughout NZ take time out for family holidays, camps, reunions, Easter church events, cultural and recreational events over this Easter weekend, kiwis employed in the retail industry should also be able to enjoy the public holidays and extended weekend.”
...For the sake of families and the well-being of our nation, keep the public holidays. - Family First, 5/4/07

I agree that we need to keep our public holidays, however it is small-minded to presume that the only way that families will be able to enjoy a public holiday is to ban them from working on those days.

Click here for a list of New Zealand's public holidays.

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Blogger Simeon said...

Andy as Christians we should be working to uphold Gods standards not to compromise them.

That is not to say that I think shops being closed on Easter is Gods standard.

What is though is the 4th commandment. Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Yes we live in a secular society, but no we should not be advocating for this commandment to be broken further.

Gods law applies as much to Christians as it does to those who aren't.

1:01 pm, April 13, 2009 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand your logic Andy, but the fact remains that the majority of the country still wants these public holidays to remain - and not for religious reasons, simply because it means they all get the day off work.

The most common argument used by retailers to be able to open that day is that they are losing business - but that is nonsense, provided no-one is open. If no-one opens, people just buy stuff the next day. If some open and others don't, then the ones that don't open will lose business, to the point where most will choose to open - and like it or not, most people will end up working on those days against their wishes.

As this issue affects so many people, it would be fairer in my mind to put it to a referendum - and as far as I can see, most people would vote to keep their holidays.

2:01 pm, April 13, 2009 
Blogger Andy Moore said...


I completely agree mate, "we should not be advocating for this commandment to be broken further" - and I trust that I am not doing this. I also agree that Gods law applies to all people. However the question we're dealing with here is, - is it acceptable for the Government to force us to a) observe a religious day, involving a ban on trading, or b) ban trading on any other "arbitrarily" selected public holidays?


Again, we're not arguing about whether the holidays remain or not. We're discussing whether or not the Government should ban trading on these days. The majority's opinion on either of these two matters does nothing to affect the morality of it - I'm sure you'll agree!

Yeah, we could have a referendum... But they cost the country $10 million or so... I'd just prefer the Government to back out and let individuals determine exactly how they will celebrate (or not) a public holiday or religious day.

4:32 pm, April 13, 2009 
Blogger Simeon said...

Andy, Can you please explain whether 40 years ago people would have considered the closing of shops on Every Saturday and Sunday a 'ban'?

4:48 pm, April 13, 2009 
Blogger Andy Moore said...

...does it matter what they considered it as?

6:22 pm, April 13, 2009 
Anonymous Jessica (Christian Union : ) ) said...

Tom's illustration is so sad :'(
I guess although i like to think that New Zealand should observe Christian holidays it doesn't make sense to force them too.... There shouldn't be red type so that people loose out on jobs etc because being one day late renewing their licenses...then again it's not really fair that people would have to work on christmas day...if more shops were open more people would be obligated to work and they may not get a choice...good post though and thought provoking : )

10:59 pm, April 13, 2009 
Blogger Andy Moore said...

thanks for your comment Jessica.

Heh, I didn't mean for the picture to be taken seriously - it's just something I made up to make the point, by exaggerating a bit...

12:28 am, April 14, 2009 
Blogger Simeon said...

Yes it does matter what they are considered. You and the rest of the liberals who want to change the law call these days shopping 'bans'.

They have always been considered holidays. In fact 40 years ago when everything closed down on the weekends people didn't consider them bans, they considered them days off.

And as for the exaggerating you sound a bit like Sue Bradford.

1 more point. There have been 11 attempts to change the law since 1990. All have failed. Therefore shouldn't we just accept that we have had the debate and the law has been left alone?

I'm sure you didn't like it when they were trying and trying to change the anti-smacking law.

8:58 am, April 14, 2009 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy, as I have said I do see your logic that it may not be the role of government. But on the other hand, states have been declaring national holidays for thousands of years - and most people like them. States have only been dabbling in benefits, regulations, subsidies etc relatively recently.

Is it not possible to accept on a historical basis that declaring public holidays is a legitimate role of even a limited government, and focus on cutting back state interference in other, far more important areas?

1:46 pm, April 14, 2009 
Blogger Andy Moore said...

Simeon and Samuel, you are both arguing that trading on public holidays should be banned (however you wish to word it), on the basis that "it's what we've done... forever". My gut feeling is that you're right, however looking at this from an objective, consistent point of view, I think we should be able to agree that it is not the role of the State to interfere at this level. But then as Samuel said, this is a relatively minor issue... even so, worth discussing.

2:04 pm, April 14, 2009 
Blogger Simeon said...

Andy the laws that the Government has upheld on Easter trading has been in place for many years.

These laws are not the interference of the state, they are representing what actually has happened in society in the past.

Only now do people like you see them as interference. But actually these laws are not and have not been interference.

2:16 pm, April 14, 2009 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is approximately where I am at on the issue too. I see the logic that says it may not be the role of the state to dictate people's lives in this way, but can't bring myself to agree with it for a number of reasons. It's a difficult issue - fortunately it is unimportant!

2:22 pm, April 14, 2009 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(I mean I roughly agree with Andy's last post)

2:25 pm, April 14, 2009 
Blogger Simeon said...

Yes it is an unimportant issue. But unfortunately our politicians do not think so. They have tried 11 times to change the law since 1990.

I think that's ridiculous. Can't we just have an Easter break without all the debate?

3:16 pm, April 14, 2009 
Blogger Andy Moore said...

I actually disagree that this debate is completely unimportant. Simeon, you say that the Easter trading laws do not interfere with your lifestyle.

Well you know what, I don't care! It may suit you not to work on the Easter public holidays and the religious day (Sunday), but there may be other people who in fact wish to work on these days - and all I'm saying is, let's back off and let them do what they want in this area.


4:56 pm, April 14, 2009 
Blogger Simeon said...

Andy you have contradicted your previous statement and nullified it.

You said ""we should not be advocating for this commandment to be broken further" - and I trust that I am not doing this. I also agree that Gods law applies to all people."

You have now said "but there may be other people who in fact wish to work on these days - and all I'm saying is, let's back off and let them do what they want in this area."

Andy you ARE advocating for people to break the 4th commandment.

7:41 pm, April 14, 2009 
Blogger Andy Moore said...

That's not right Simeon. I'm not advocating for people to work on public holidays - or Sundays. What I am doing is saying that they should have the freedom to do so if they wish.

Simple as that.

8:10 pm, April 14, 2009 
Blogger Simeon said...

Yeah but as a Christian do you think it is appropriate to be making those comments?

8:20 pm, April 14, 2009 
Blogger Andy Moore said...

Absolutely mate. Saying that someone should have the freedom to act immorally is not the same as condoning that immoral behaviour.

9:04 pm, April 14, 2009 
Blogger Matt said...

While not wanting to commit myself one way of the other on easter trading I think your argument is mistaken.

You have taken the standard liberal "give people the freedom to choose" argument; those who want to work can and those who don’t want to, cannot.

The problem is that if you give people “the freedom to choose" it does not always mean that those who do not want to do something can choose not to.

To use an example, if I live in a culture where the vast majority of my neighbours choose to put pornography up in their private businesses then, realistically, I am not free to choose to not see pornography.

Similarly, if I live in a society where everyone is free to choose to swear it becomes almost impossible for me to freely bring my children up to not swear.

The argument assumes, naively, that other people’s choices to do wrong do not effect me and I think that is not correct.

Moreover, I note you suggest that because easter is a “religious holiday” people should be free to choose. This seems to buy into the line that anything dubbed "religious" should be a private matter, while that which is considered secular, such as ANZAC day, is not. That is a mistake.

Consider Anzac day, not everyone agrees that World War I was a just war. In fact, I can see a good case for thinking it was a stupid, pointless waste of human life. Some New Zealanders are pacifists. Why then, doesn't the same argument apply to ANZAC day? Afterall, not everyone believes we should honour the ANZACS, some people ignore the significance of the day and rent movies and buy takeaways, others want to work - why impose the 'respect for those who laid down their lives for us' mantra? Turkey wasn't invading New Zealand. [I am playing devils advocate here, I honour ANZAC day]

As to the consenting contractor’s argument in your picture. Think of how far this could be pushed? After all, laws against voluntary slavery restrict what people can voluntarily contract. As do laws requiring employers to have safety standards - why not just give workers the freedom to choose to work under these conditions? What of laws preventing people working for 18 hours a day with no breaks? After all, the liberal could argue, those who don’t want to do this can choose not to?

Your argument is clearly a little naïve.

The fact is that workers are protected by these laws because if people were “free” to choose to do this then people would essentially face economic and social coercion to do this and this is precisely the reason why there are laws mandating public holidays.

12:25 pm, April 15, 2009 
Blogger Andy Moore said...

Thanks for your comment Matt.

"The problem is that if you give people “the freedom to choose" it does not always mean that those who do not want to do something can choose not to."I agree, this issue does come up - and it is far from a minor complication, but it too, is a flawed reason for not allowing trading on public holidays (for example).
You could use this argument to argue that "we should ban tattoos, otherwise some people who don't want to get a tattoo may be coerced into getting a tattoo."

"if I live in a culture where the vast majority of my neighbours choose to put pornography up in their private businesses then, realistically, I am not free to choose to not see pornography."I disagree in principle... You can choose to either stay inside your house, or join a new culture.

Regarding ANZAC day, I agree. That's why I said "I see Anzac day as being the most worthy of being honoured by the nation with trading restrictions". It's not an easy one at all.

Your comment about taking the argument about working hours (etc) to its logical conclusion is a good one, and one I considered. I think restrictions on working hours are a necessary "evil" - just like having a basic minimum wage. But surely, it's one thing to dictate the number of hours an individual can work per week, or the minimum wage at which he is paid - but quite another to say which days he can and cannot work on?

3:09 pm, April 15, 2009 

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