Why NZ should embrace UK Tory volunteer concept and reject ACTs assault on time off!


I like the idea of universal service…

The Conservative Party has said it would bring back mandatory national service in the United Kingdom if it wins the general election. It said 18-year-olds would have a choice of either joining the military full-time for 12 months, or volunteering one weekend every month carrying out a community service.

…if we want the fabric of society to be strong, we have to invest in that social infrastructure.

Why NZ should embrace UK Tory volunteer concept and reject ACTs assault on time off!

Personally, I’ve always believed that public holidays should be mandatory.

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I think that it is incredibly important for the fabric of our society for us all to put down tools as citizens on specific days and all of us venture out into our amazing public spaces and be friendly with one another.

The importance of our civility in public towards each other, the importance of being tolerant while sharing the same space and the importance to actually stop working and enjoy doing nothing but spend time with our family, friends and whanau would do more to building that sense of nationhood than any other thing.

As citizens, we have earned the right to have days off, and we need to hold onto this right and understand it through its universal application that is so important. It’s the need to share our beaches and out door spaces together on these days that builds bonds between families and groups of people who would never otherwise meet in their busy 9-5, 5-9 plus the odd late shift lives.

For those public servants forced to work while the rest of us play, the media should be full of ‘spare a thought for’ type stories so that our public servants who must continue to staff essential services while the rest of us relax are given the respect and admiration they deserve for their selfless functions.

I would even go as far as demanding a new holiday – New Zealand Volunteers day. The idea being that there is one day a year we all universally have off to help volunteer in society all on the same day. It could be a mass planting, or cleaning up, or helping reach out to the elderly or migrant communities or anyone whose a bit different so we can all feel included.

I would also suggest that we make the date of the election a Wednesday and also make it a public holiday. We bitch so much in this country about not having a day we can celebrate as NZers because Pakeha feel so guilty about Waitangi Day, so why not search for that which binds us and celebrate that? Election Day should be a celebration because we are one of the few privileged countries around the planet that allows political leadership to change minus violence and repression.

Our exercising of the right to vote peacefully is celebration in itself and making it a mid week public holiday would do more for participation rates than easily hacked online voting.

That sense of self identity and nationhood that we always whine about not being present during Waitangi Day takes effort and can’t simply be left up to the ‘free market’. The space where that national identity can take shape has to be universally applied in the form of mandatory public holidays and not left to be traded in by unscrupulous employers who if given half a chance would make ‘Hi Ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go’ the new National anthem.

The thousands of different interactions generated by us all respectfully sharing the same space together on set days would do more for our understanding of each other than a million disagreements ever could.

What is the point of being a citizen in a democracy if we can’t enjoy the leisure of spending time outside in this glorious country? Are we really all wage slaves? Is that what a modern democracy has been denigrated too?

‘I have a dream to work every hour of the day by a boss who is screwing me over’ isn’t particularly inspirational is it?

If we appreciated the importance of actually resting for the sake of our mental, emotional and physical health, we could hold our heads up on Labour Day once again with some pride.


  1. “Pakeha feel so guilty about Waitangi Day.”
    Maybe some do. I’ve never met anyone who did mind. I’ve met plenty that resent it in that miserable mean-spirited way that many conservatives have. I’m also old enough to remember when most people – but not of course all people – got weekends off. You could go and watch your kids play sport. Not anymore obviously. I also remember when overtime meant doubletime in triple time on some occasions. God I made really good wages in those days working Saturdays and Sundays. Until I became a teacher, and then I worked Saturdays essentially for nothing. And never got to watch my own kids play sport.

  2. While I believe that our creator has given us a day of rest every week I do not believe that governments should have any role in making a compulsory rest day as that is an individual choice.

    • Whose individual choice? Workers often have very little choice about what day they’re supposed to get off. And why only one day of rest? Because the Christian Bible says so? Somewhat over half the world’s population are not Christian. Why do you need to impose your beliefs on them?

  3. Yep, a years National Service as part of the state superannuation package. All that positive life experience available to society at large.

  4. On the pier of Petone, brothers sisters, (most dank and disorientated) Welcome, there are twenty four hours in a day, 8 for toil 8 for leisure and 8 for rest, was the welcome Parnell, greeted.


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