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MP Challenged To Sacrifice Christmas



Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand


8 December 2009

Church group asks McClay: Sacrifice Christmas to discuss Easter changes

With another Easter Trading Bill served up on Parliamentary Members’ table just before the festive season, a Church group is asking the Bill’s proponent Todd McClay to discuss the issues – on Christmas Day.

The Rotorua MP private member’s Bill will be read and voted on for the first time in Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday).

However, Catholic social justice agency Caritas is so fed up with having to revisit Easter Trading for the fifth time in four years, that it has invited Mr McClay to sacrifice some of his Christmas plans to discuss the issue.

Says Caritas Director Michael Smith, “We believe that such a discussion, taking place against a backdrop of our shared longing to be with other people in other places, would be a productive way to understand the impact that proposed Easter changes would make to individuals and families.”

“Many retail workers won’t have a real ‘choice’ to decline pressure from employers to work at Easter, if Mr McClay’s bill were to pass,” said Mr Smith. Also to consider are New Zealand families already weakened by the lack of work/life balance; communities who make the most of the collective break offered to host hui, school and family reunions, sporting fixtures and other events; and of course those who value Easter as a religious festival.

Mr Smith said he was aware that Mr McClay may dismiss the invitation as a stunt, but has assured him that the agency is deeply serious.  “This invitation is made out of the religious conviction that an act of self-sacrifice is a better way of understanding the suffering of others than hours of political debate made in a situation of relative comfort.”

“Easter is not just an important religious occasion,” said Mr Smith.  “Many New Zealanders have told us they appreciate and value the Churches’ role in defending and protecting their opportunity for a few precious days of collective rest.” 

Mr Smith said that in addition to recent private members’ bills and Reviews, attempts to change Easter trading hours have been made and defeated in 1996, 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2004.

As well as the invitation to Mr McClay, Caritas is writing to all Members of Parliament asking them to form their consciences on this issue by considering those who will be most affected if Easter trading hours are liberalised.

Mr Smith suggested that if Mr McClay declines the Christmas meeting on the basis of family commitments it would signal to retail workers and the wider community that he reserves the right to make a choice that will ultimately be denied to other people if his Bill is passed.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 165 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.


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