"Instead of a one-day holiday, make it two – one on each side of the weekend. That way we can really make a difference to the travel industry’s plight and to the health and happiness of workers," suggests "The Gadfly" columnist ROBERT MACKLIN

THOSE of us journalists and authors who work every day, every week, every year could hardly believe it: while it seems as though our compatriots are always on some kind of day off, Australia has fewer national holidays than practically any other country in the region, if not the entire world.

Robert Macklin.

Cambodia, for example, has 29 such days compared to our puny 13. Even the Philippines has double our lot, while the French have 25 official or "celebration" days and the Americans and the Brits find all sorts of reasons to lay about quaffing drinkies instead of pounding the computer like us workaholics.

While we authors will never change, maybe the time has come to thoroughly revise the way as a country we divide our time between toil and those 13 memorial days. 

For example, the whole idea of celebrating, say, Reconciliation Day with a single Monday off is nuts. Australia is a big place with lots of traffic. If you have a three-day weekend you usually spend two days of it travelling (by whatever mode) leaving only one day at the beach, the ski-fields or the hinterland having fun.

More importantly, at a time when our tourist industry is staggering under the ravages of COVID-19, there’s no real chance for it to recover when we’re barely at the venue before we’re packing to leave. So here’s my suggestion: instead of a one-day holiday, make it two – one on each side of the weekend. That way we can really make a difference to the industry’s plight, and to the health and happiness of our workforce.

It’s not as though we’d lose much in productivity. 

In my experience, almost no work gets done in the business world either on Monday morning or Friday afternoon. At such times, in publishers’ offices (and no doubt their equivalents in the other great CBD honeycombs) people are either lunching with the latest "birthday girl", getting an early start on a weekend of jollity or staggering in through the haze of the Monday blues.

However, if every national "day" was doubled, they could finish the same amount of work on Thursday and set out for the coast or the bush next day, driving home on the Monday after filling the pockets of the tourist venues during the two days in between. 

It’s a chance to explore our own wonderful continent and gain at least a sliver of understanding what it meant to our Aboriginal predecessors. And as the national capital becomes the hub of a mighty regional wheel incorporating not just the coastal delights but the wondrous world of the hinterland, we’ll all discover lots of alternatives to city living.

COVID-19, for all its awfulness has at least broken the stricture of a workaday week confined to the office. The possibility of working from home – wherever it might be – and checking into HQ only when necessary – will become a genuine alternative.

Sure, our 13 national holidays will become 26 days off but that’s only one more day than France, and who invented the term "joie de vivre"? 

And maybe with the prospect of a real break from the computer grind, we workaholics might be tempted to join the jollity.


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