Wednesday, 6 December 2017
I, and also on behalf of Senator Di Natale, move:
That the Senate—
(b) recognises that 26 January is considered a day of mourning for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as it represents the beginning of colonisation;
(c) acknowledges the growing calls from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and organisations, local governments and the community to change the date;
(d) urges all Australians to respectfully engage in conversations about changing the date of Australia Day; and
(e) calls on the Federal Government to engage and consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples about changing the date of Australia Day, so that all Australians can participate in celebrating this national day.
I've said it before and I'll say it again now: the coalition government will never, ever change the date of Australia Day. The coalition government unequivocally supports Australia Day being held on 26 January each year, as do the overwhelming majority of Australian people.
Labor will not be supporting this motion. Labor support Australia Day and we have no plans to change it. We understand the importance of a national day and we know that many Australians take pride in Australia Day. But we also understand that for many, including many Indigenous Australians, Australia Day is a day which represents a history of dispossessing and suffering. We cannot ignore that and we will not ignore that. But we will not engage in the silly political games of the Greens, attempting to make a political plaything out of reconciliation.
Labor supports a process of truth telling as part of our nation's healing. It is why the Leader of the Opposition has expressed support for the recommendations of the Referendum Council which call for a Makarrata Commission to oversee the process of truth telling and agreement making. It is why we are focused on closing the gap. It is disappointing that the Greens are so focused on these issues and not on jobs, health care and education. Rather than playing silly games about councils and radio stations, Labor is focusing on the work that needs to be done to progress a meaningful process of engagement with Indigenous Australians.
It's very dangerous to say 'never ever'. To the government and to the opposition: we know the date will change. It's a question of when. And then you lot will claim it as your own, just like you have with marriage equality and just like you have with a banking royal commission. All of a sudden, it will be Labor's idea. We will bookmark this day. The date will change. It is a question of when. The Australian community are increasingly engaging with this debate. They know that this is a day of grieving for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The date will change so that everybody in this country can enjoy Australia and celebrate Australia, not on a day that harms and causes distress to a large proportion of Australian people.