Government responds to Greens push for Australia Day change

Australia Day
Australia Day celebrations. Photo by Gabe Collett via Wikimedia Commons

The Turnbull government in Canberra has had a robust reaction to the Greens party push to change the date of Australia Day. Accusations were made of Greens leader Richard Di Natale of deliberately fostering division with an act of “attention seeking”.

Both Labor and Coalition MP’s have rejected the proposal to change the date of Australia’s national holiday, with normally oppositional members Barnaby Joyce and Bill Shorten agreeing on this particular issue. Di Natale has expressed that this issue would be one of his party’s major priorities for the year.

Di Natale has said to Greens members across the country that they will have the total support of the federal party in holding campaigns to encourage citizens not to celebrate on January 26. He has encouraged more local councils to copy the moves by Fremantle, Darebin and Yarra in shifting celebrations away from the controversial date.

Australia Day marks the arrival of the first fleet of British colonisation to Australia and is referred to as “Invasion Day” by many indigenous people. Supporters of changing the date see the current date as inappropriately celebrating the beginnings of the ethnic genocide of Aboriginal Australians.

In response to the recent push Alex Hawke, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, released a statement harshly criticising what he sees as an attempt to force a “far-left agenda” onto normal Australians.  He said that the Greens were seeking to turn Australians against each other in the pushing of a “minority view” that attacks Australian history.

Hawke said that this was an example of why Australians should not accept “the divisive approach” of the Greens party. He went on to say that the federal government had a “resolute” agenda to protect the integrity of citizenship ceremonies and signalled the government would punish attempts by councils to discourage celebrations.

In 2017 the federal government banned two councils led by the Greens in Victoria from having citizenship ceremonies after they made attempts to change the celebration date of Australia Day.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently uploaded a video to social media that acknowledged the tragedy experienced by indigenous Australians as a result of colonisation but disagreed with calls to change the date. He said that he was “disappointed” in attempts to make a “day that united Australians” into one that is divisive.

Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that the Greens were too focused on “philosophical” issues whilst the Coalition government was working on infrastructure projects that had a real positive impact for Australians.

The debate surrounding the changing of the date of Australia Day has grown in ferocity over the last few years and heats up every January. Last year radio station Triple J announced that its Hottest 100 music countdown would no longer occur on Australia Day, sparking controversy.