The Guardian 10 August, 2005

Uproar over holiday plans

The tourism industry says moves to cut annual leave are a threat to the $55 billion sector, while a leading historian warns they will change what it means to be Australian. Tourism and Transport Forum chief, Christopher Brown, said Kevin Andrews' threat to halve guaranteed annual leave entitlements could decimate domestic tourism.

Industry leaders expressed their concerns to federal Tourism Minister, Fran Bailey, last week. Mr Brown said Andrews' plan to allow two weeks of annual leave to be cashed out would see workers taking fewer holidays.

He said it would take Australia one undesirable step closer to the US situation.

At the same time, Sydney University history teacher, Richard White, argued it could split Australian society between the haves and the have-nots.

Near-universal access to paid family holidays, he said, had been a defining characteristic of Australian-ness, different from the experiences of other Anglo-Celtic societies.

"One scenario, if we keep on going down this line, is that we'd get to a situation which is a bit like it was back in the 18th Century", Mr White said. "[Where] you had a sort of class that could afford leisure and sufficient income unearned income from investment and inheritance that class didn't need to work and they could enjoy quite a lot of leisure.

"On the other hand, the majority of people had less and less leisure available to them."

The Australian reported last week that there was widespread tourism industry support for Mr Brown's warning about economic damage. It quoted voyages hotels and resorts boss, Grant Hunt, warning staff would "burn out" because economics would dictate they should take the money.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council head Daniel Gschwind called the proposal a "bad move".

Back to index page