The Holidays (Full Recognition of Waitangi Day and Anzac Day) Amendment Bill passed its committee stages on a voice vote in Parliament tonight. Labour MP David Clark began by thanking supporters of his bill:
I want to place on record from the outset my thanks to all of those parties in Parliament that are supporting this bill. To my Labour colleagues, the Green Party, New Zealand First, the Māori Party, United Future, Mana, and Brendan Horan, they have all pledged their support for this bill and without it this bill would not pass through the House.
National and Act oppose the bill but are not trying to stop it’s passage. Clark suggested they support the bill…
So I want the National Party to get in behind this bill. I want John Key to get in behind this bill.
…but then lambasted Key…
His suggestion today in Parliament that ordinary Kiwis could not be trusted to front on Anzac Day is a disgrace. It is an outrage.
..which doesn’t look like a genuine attempt to win Key over. As one subsequent National speaker said:
MIKE SABIN (National—Northland): I find it a little ironic that the member resuming his seat, Dr David Clark, is asking for the support of the Prime Minister and then sets about beating him around the head with a frozen fish as to his rationale. It does exemplify what we have seen so often from the Opposition the beatings will continue until morale improves approach to garnering support.
Clark has done this before, being heavily critical of Peter Dunne for not supporting his Minimum Wage bill. He can have a bit of a “you’re with us or against us” attitude.
In a press release David Shearer followed a similar approach, repeating comments he had made during Question Time:
“Almost everyone except John Key and his National MPs support this legislation. Polls show most New Zealanders support it. Businesses support it. The tourism industry supports it. And even John Key once said that it was ‘fair enough’.
But there was scant support shown by Labour MPs yesterday, with only a handful participating – four plus Clark at the beginning of the debate.
Despite the low numbers a good debate followed with some strong speeches from both sides of the house.
National’s main objection was that Mondayising ANZAC day would detract from the commemoration aspect of the day (throughtout the speeches ANZAC Day was frequently mentioned as being the most important aspect of the pros and cons, with Waitangi Day getting far fewer passing mentions).
Sabin closed the debate with further acknowwledgment to Clark (previous speakers had also done this):
I just want to acknowledge David Clark and the work that he has done on this, and although I am new to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee…
And went on to summarise his and National’s position:
…I also acknowledge the select committee and just reflect on the fine balance that I think is reflected here. I have listened very carefully to the contributions from across the Chamber, and mine, as I spoke to previously, does reflect very much my view that the servicemen, in particular, on Anzac Day tip that balance in favour of voting against this bill. That is certainly where my position comes from, and the reverence and importance of that day in commemoration.
He also pointed out some Labour history:
I just want to reflect on a couple of points from former Labour Party members of Parliament.
One Minister of Māori Affairs, Matiu Rata, said: “Like Anzac Day, New Zealand Day is not to be Mondayised. It is the significance of the occasion that is important, rather than the fact that it be a paid public holiday. It should not be regarded as merely an extra paid holiday.” That was one Matiu Rata who made that comment.
Another former Minister of Internal Affairs, one Hon Mr May, said: “The Government believes that Mondayising of New Zealand Day would distract from the importance of the significance of the event it commemorates.”
Another former MP, Mr Rēweti, said that the committee considered that it was justified in declaring that Waitangi Day should not be Mondayised, because the Labour Party had gone to the electors in 1972 on the policy that Waitangi Day would not be Mondayised.
Those were the heady days of the Labour Party—the working man’s party—that we remember, but I do not necessarily believe that they are represented in the Chamber here today.
Another former MP, one Mr Marshall, said: “I believe that it would greatly detract from the observance of the New Zealand Day for it to be Mondayised and turned into just another long weekend.”
I think it is quite clear that there is a shift in the modern Labour Party, if I could call it that, from the traditional values that were held. I believe that those traditional values that are actually held across the country are something that we should reflect on in this Chamber, and certainly I do in being quite happy to oppose this bill.
But the bill had sufficient support to pass on a voice vote. It will be popular – people like extra holidays, even if it’s just one or two extra days every six or seven years. Clark had promoted popular support in his speech.
It indicates several things: the popularity of this bill, the fact that it is common sense, and that it restores to ordinary Kiwis the 11 public holidays they expect to receive every year.
Actually no, thaty’s an odd claim, it restores nothing. It gives us more than we had.
It has been universally popular since it was made clear that commemorations will still occur on the same days that they always have, that is 6 February for Waitangi Day and 25 April for Anzac Day.
The fact that a holiday follows on the Monday that follows a weekend occurrence of those days is what changes. We have a bill that makes sure that we have those 11 holidays ever year. That gives those holidays the full recognition that other holidays have.
More than 80 percent of New Zealanders in some polls support this bill. In the only quantitative survey that has been done 87 percent of small and medium sized business owners are either in support or neutral toward this bill.
So the bill proceeds.
I think ANZAC Day will continue to be commemorated appropriately on each 25th of April, regardless if we get an additional day off on Monday occasionally.
But Waitangi Day will simply be a long holiday weekend to most people.
I don’t think anyone will be bothered by the change, it’s a minor tweak to our holidays that we will barely notice.