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Editorial Echoes 6/11/2007 – The silly Melbourne Cup holiday

November 6th, 2007 at 02:20am

Today Samuel takes a look at the Melbourne Cup public holiday and why it is a bad idea. Samuel also provides a few tips for the big race.

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The script follows (although it’s worthwhile that I do make a few minor changes when recording as even I don’t always write properly for my speech pattern).


Welcome to Editorial Echoes for November 6, 2007, I’m Samuel Gordon-Stewart.

Last time on Editorial Echoes I said that I’d be back the following day with more about GetUp’s campaign to end the coalition’s majority in the senate. Unfortunately a number of other things got in the way of me doing that, it will still be done, but not today as today there is something a tad more pressing.

Yes, it’s Melbourne Cup day, and for some inexplicable reason that means it’s a public holiday in the ACT at the behest of Chief Turnip Jon Stanhope and one of his ministers, Andrew Barr. If you’re not in the ACT you probably don’t care, so I’ll deal with that in a moment, and talk about the race first.

Well in the last few years I have picked horses based either on names or recent form, and without fail, they have failed, so this year I was planning on taking up one of the fifteen dollar Melbourne Cup packs that Kevin Woolfe from ACTTAB has been promoting, and getting the ACTTAB computer to pick three random horses for me, but then I had a nap, and woke up with three numbers stuck in my head for no apparent reason, so, for this reason, my tips are as follows:

Number 1 Tawqeet, number 3 Blutigeroo and number 15 Scenic Shot.

I’ll be popping in to an ACTTAB agency to pick up one of their fifteen dollar Melbourne Cup packs which gives me a dollar win and place on each horse, and a boxed quinella and a boxed trifecta with all of my selections. Effectively it means I will recoup some of my outlay if any of the horses runs first, second or third, and I’ll do a tad better if I pick combinations of first, second and third.

I think one very important thing to remember though is that if you are going to have a bet, please do it sensibly. Do not, under any circumstances, bet money that you can not afford to lose. I think the best way to look at gambling is as a donation to the people you are gambling with. If you’re lucky they might give you a few dollars back, but as you have given them a donation, they are under no obligation to give you anything.

If you have a gambling problem and want help, or you know someone in that circumstance, you can give lifeline a call in the ACT on 13 11 14, or your local gambling support service. You should be able to find them in your local phone book.

Moving on to the Melbourne Cup public holiday in the ACT, which is laughably called “Family and Community Day”. I have mentioned my objections to this holiday on a number of occasions on my blog, and my main reason is that Melbourne Cup day had its own workplace culture. Work was still done in the morning and at a slower rate through the afternoon, but the main aspect of the day was the way work colleagues could get together and have a really good, natural, team bonding session. There were office sweeps and trivial fun things like that, and in general, people just had a good day.

The amount of office harmony that this produced in many ways outweighed the lack of work done on the afternoon of the first Tuesday in November.

Even schools had their own brand of celebration for this national event. Whilst no gambling would be involved for legal reasons, most schools would turn on a television in the library or another common room for students to gather around at 3pm for the race. The day also enabled staff to run various classes around the history of iconic national events, not just the Melbourne Cup.

With a public holiday, none of this will happen, it will just mean that the kids are at home with their parents. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I’m sure most adults would rather celebrate with adults, and most children would rather be jovial with their peers.

Unfortunately the impact of a public holiday on Melbourne Cup day is worse than just a loss of a good day of some productivity and a lot of team bonding, the impact is far more serious. Having a public holiday on a Tuesday meant that a lot of people took yesterday off, either as annual leave, a legitimate or otherwise sick day, or some other form of leave. This means that in industries such as the one I work in during the day where national customers keep creating work, there were less people available to do the same amount of work…today will be worse.

With the ACT being the only part of the nation other than parts of Melbourne to have a holiday, the workload in service industries will be the same as usual, except for part of the afternoon, and there will be less people present to do the work, resulting in frazzled employees today, and a less-than-fun backlog of work tomorrow.

Regardless of that, I will be working today as a matter of principle. I’m against the holiday, so I won’t be having the day off.

Other industries such as hospitality will also suffer as Bryan Cossart of Flynn pointed out in a letter to the editor of the Sunday Canberra Times. Quote “Melbourne Cup Day, while taking workers out of the picture for up to half a day at employers’ expense, provided a boon for caterers and the like whilst providing a wonderful opportunity for workplace bonding. [..] This must be a major loss for our city’s caterers. To top it off, any catering that is done is now done at penalty rates.” End quote

Of course Bryan is right, the caterers and food stores will suffer, the caterers from a lack of offices to cater for, the food stores from a lack of offices catering for themselves. Sure, some people will have their own celebration, but it will, from a sales perspective, be nowhere near the level of revenue or stock sales that workplace celebrations generated…and of course staff will be on various public holiday arrangements.

Of course, the predictable argument from people is “how can you possibly be against a day off?”. Well apart from the immaterial fact that some of us like to work, it should be blatantly obvious by now that it is not the day off that I am complaining about, it is the timing of the day off. It’s not just the fact that the holiday has ruined the traditions of Melbourne Cup day, it’s that we have just been given yet another holiday up this end of the year.

We have a holiday in October, then this one in November, two in December and another two January, then one on March, the three Easter holidays in either March or April, and ANZAC Day in April. Between April and October we have one holiday, just one, the Queen’s birthday in June. Surely if we are going to have a public holiday it would better to produce a bit of balance in the holiday structure and have it somewhere between mid July and early August. I don’t know if there is anything the ACT could celebrate in that date range, maybe balance day considering why I think it should be placed in that part of the year. Then again, it tends to warm up a tad at that end of winter, so perhaps family and community day would work well there. It would certainly be better than holding it on Melbourne Cup day.

This has been Editorial Echoes for November 6, 2007, if you have any thoughts or comments about any of this, email them to

And of course there is the weekly poll on, this week’s question is “Do you think Labor’s environment spokesman, Peter Garrett, was joking when he told 2UE’s Steve Price that Labor will change their policies if elected?”

Last week’s question about whether you would prefer Australia to sign Kyoto or a new climate agreement if we must sign something was a 50/50 split. It’s a difficult issue, so I’m hardly surprised.

I’m Samuel Gordon-Stewart, best of luck if you decide to have a punt on the Melbourne Cup, and until next time, tada.

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1 Comment

  • 1. Pen 15  |  November 6th, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Think of the caterers! Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the caterers!


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