Did grand final day off kick a goal?

October 04, 2017

A huge crowd converged on the Maude St Mall on Friday to enjoy the build up to Saturday's historic grand final between Richmond and Adelaide.

Arguing against a public holiday for Victorian workers is not the easiest way to win voters.

But when it comes to Victoria’s newest public holiday, the AFL grand final eve public holiday, not everyone is convinced it is a good idea.

Victoria has its third grand final eve public holiday on Friday, the day before Richmond ended its 37-year premiership drought against the Adelaide Crows.

Premier Daniel Andrews pushed hard for the extra public holiday back in 2011 as Opposition leader which he dubbed ‘‘grand final Friday’’.

The day was introduced when Labor won government, with the first grand final eve public holiday falling in October, 2015.

While the majority of workers no doubt appreciate the day off, the day still has its critics. In Shepparton yesterday, Federal Small Business Minister Michael McCormack said it was an added strain on small regional operators.

With businesses stuck between opening and paying high penalty rates or staying closed and missing out on a day’s trade, it could be a tough choice.

Mr Andrews has said the day gives the families the chance to experience the spectacle of the grand final parade, which attracts thousands of spectators each year to Melbourne’s central business district.

Just how much relevance this has to regional Victorians, who are more likely to stay at home for the day, is debatable.

Big business has predictably campaigned against the day, with various estimates from business groups claiming it could cost the state up to a $1 billion in lost productivity.

But how relevant most public holidays are to the majority in this modern day and age.

Not everyone is in to the horse racing, but we all get Melbourne Cup day off (unless your town switched it around with a local show day).

Not everyone is a church-attending Christian, yet everyone is pretty attached to Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

And even though the Queen’s birthday is not treated with a public holiday in the United Kingdom, we celebrate her birth with a day off (on days which differ from state to state, and do not actually fall on her majesty’s birthday).

Time will tell if an AFL public holiday survives this government, or if it becomes a historical quirk for the record books. But any government that attempts to get rid of the day should take a good look at not just the cost on business, but the cost on workers.

Even if only a small handful of Victorians who had the day off on Friday attended the parade, most would have appreciated another day off.

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