23 July 2024
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Premier Minns is closing down business for the Anzacs

Peter Switzer
11 July 2024

There are a few times when I can’t confidently back one view in a controversial argument and the topic that 2GB’s Ben Fordham asked me to comment on this morning was one that took me back to a standout story that saw my radio comment rejected by two radio news directors for the opposite reasons!

This was the only time in my 30-year plus radio career that my comment was rejected and it’s why I remember it!

For the wrong reasons, this memorable day came back to me as I considered the announcement by Premier Chris Minns yesterday that he will ban retail trading and music festivals on April 25, starting next year. More on that in a moment.

My day of rejection went back to some time in the early 1990s when Melbourne accused Sydney of working against them to host the 1996 Olympic Games. Ultimately, it went to Atlanta in the US, but as Sam Heath in a 2006 report in The Age revealed: “It was suggested that some supposed backers drank champagne in Sydney when Melbourne lost. Ultimately, Melbourne's loss was Sydney's gain.”

The man who copped the backlash was Olympic official Phil Coles, who allegedly sabotaged Melbourne’s bid to help a future Sydney bid that was announced in 1993 when Olympic chief, Juan Antonio Samaranch, famously announced: “And the winner is, Sydney, Australia!”

In those days I did daily business and political editorial comments for Triple M in Sydney and Melbourne, and I decided to do a neutral objective take on the story. Rather than taking a side, I purely laid out the guts of the story. The whole pressure of pulling off something that would be seen as a ‘fair call’ comment (which I always aimed for and still do) was made harder because I’m a member of North Bondi Surf Club, where Phil (who was a three-time Olympic canoeist as well as an Australian surf ski champion) was a legend!

What happened? Both newsroom directors contacted me and said they couldn’t run my comment because the listeners would blow up! These were two guys who’d never shown their bias on thousands of stories I covered but when it comes to Sydney/Melbourne rivalry, one-eyed ‘experts’ can’t see their own biases.

That morning, Switz didn’t do an editorial!

So, where do I stand on the emotional subject of Anzac Day? On one hand,

as a business commentator and business owner, I get the argument of Paul Zahra, the Australian Retail Association chief executive, who points out that

the ban would hurt supermarkets, electrical, hardware and department stores. He also threw in that it “…would also cut the earning potential for retail employees who choose to work on Anzac Day.”

By the way, the new rules won’t apply to some businesses, including cafes, pharmacies and takeaway restaurants, which is good for those who work in these spaces.

Against that, Premier Minns told the SMH that he “…was driven by the ‘creeping commercialisation’ of April 25.”

Minns has pinned his colours to the mast forthrightly by saying the following: “I know that there will be some disruption and a bit of inconvenience for some members of the community, but frankly it is a small price to pay for ensuring that we place Anzac Day where it should be.”

On the subject of those workers who won’t be able to work and pick up penalty rate pay, they will join most workers, whose places of employment are closed.

But my strongest argument to support the Premier is that like a lot of others, I haven’t thought deeply enough about Australians who died defending our country.

Last year, I was shocked out of my complacency by being invited to attend the afternoon service at the War Memorial in Canberra by its CEO, Matt Anderson.

At the daily afternoon ‘laying of the wreath’ and last post ceremony, I saw families from across the country gathering to honour their relatives who died in war. Matt Anderson told me that families attending this ceremony were connected after years of being broken apart by having a father, son, brother, sister, killed in some battle. Everything I encountered that day made me think about how so many young Australians have paid the ultimate price to ensure that we all have our freedom.

And then there was my grandfather, Bill Potter, who served in Tobruk and who went to war as a non-drinker and came home with memories that only could be erased, temporarily, with booze. And then there was Uncle Joe who returned broken and Colin Switzer, who ran a successful bakery in Orbost, Victoria, a strong, tall, intelligent man who was never the same.

Premier Minns is doing the right thing if the end result is that all of us consider the individuals who gave up or ruined their lives doing the right thing for us. I think one day of thinking about and honouring those fallen heroes is a small economic price to pay!

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