19 April 2024

Barnaby raises the Anzac Day and public servants chestnut again

| Chris Johnson
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Barnaby Joyce at an Anzac Day service

Barnaby Joyce says Commonwealth public servants should be forced to observe Anzac Day. Photo: Barnaby Joyce Facebook.

With Anzac Day barely a week away, the question of whether public servants should be forced to take the day off has once again been raised – and once again by Barnaby Joyce.

The Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, and former Nationals leader, insists that except for those working in essential services, turning up to the office on the 25th of April should not be an option for anyone on the public payroll.

Anzac Day, Australia Day and the Queen’s (now King’s) Birthday should all be observed as holidays, he says, because of the significance those events commemorate.

But the Federal Government has allowed public servants who have misgivings about “celebrating” (or commemorating) those days, to exchange those particular public holidays for other days.

In January last year, Labor reversed the former Coalition government’s decision to overrule a long-standing practice that public servants could swap any public holiday with the approval of their managers.

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Such flexibility had been in place the entire tenure of Scott Morrison’s government and for years before that.

But as the nation drew closer to an election being called in 2022, the Coalition rushed to change the rules to demand that Australia Day, the Queen’s Birthday and Anzac Day must be observed by Commonwealth public servants.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese returned the practice to what had previously been.

Now Joyce wants Albanese’s reversal of Morrison’s reversal to be reversed once more.

“For a second year in a row, Prime Minister Albanese is refusing to budge on the Labor Government’s policy that allows more than 350,000 Commonwealth public servants to swap next week’s Anzac Day public holiday for an alternative day off,” Mr Joyce said.

The former deputy prime minister is once again urging all Commonwealth employees to ignore the “Federal Government’s public service determination” that came into effect in January 2023.

He said the current policy essentially made Anzac Day optional and exchangeable and was a deliberate attempt to dilute the importance of the day.

“Of course, there has always been a requirement for some Commonwealth public servants to work on Anzac Day such as our federal police, border security, military and staff at the Australian War Memorial,” Mr Joyce said.

“However, these employees have always been required to work.

“Initially, it had been assumed the Federal Government accidentally included Anzac Day when it made the same policy for other public holidays such as Australia Day and the King’s Birthday.

“But the policy stands even after it was pointed out in Parliament. So, it wasn’t an accident.

“This is another example of how veterans and their families are feeling the loss of their voice in Cabinet.

“Until Mr Albanese took office, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs sat at the Cabinet table. But not under Labor.”

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Just like this time last year, Mr Joyce has called on the Prime Minister to rescind the policy and revert to the former Coalition government’s policy that ensured Anzac Day was embedded as a day of national remembrance.

Mr Albanese has bigger issues to tend to, but his assistant minister Patrick Gorman, who is also the assistant minister for the public service, jumped to his boss’s defence.

Mr Gorman described Mr Joyce’s comments as “nasty” and said they showed the Opposition was not concerned about the public service at all, but was instead chasing publicity.

He reiterated that Labor was just returning to previous normal practice.

The option remains for public servants who feel philosophically opposed to commemorating Anzac Day to ask their managers for an alternative day’s leave.

But with Anzac Day falling on Thursday this year, most public servants will likely take it and the next day off to enjoy a four-day long weekend.

Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.

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