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PM attacks Byron’s alternative Australia Day plan

PM Scott Morrison. Photo Crikey

Prime minister Scott Morrison says Byron Shire Council could be stripped of its ability to hold citizenship ceremonies at all if it moves ahead with a plan to hold next year’s Australia Day ceremony on January 25 as previously announced.

At a hastily convened press conference this morning (Tuesday, September 25) the PM said he supported the idea of an Aboriginal recognition day, perhaps during NAIDOC Week or on the anniversary of the 1967 referendum, but added, ‘You don’t have to bring some things down to raise other things up’.

‘Australia Day is Australia Day. That’s the day all Australians come together and we recognise everyone from our first Australians to our most recent Australians becoming citizens on that day. You can’t pretend your history isn’t your history. That’s the day the flag went up in Farm Cove; that’s the day the course of the nation changed. And from that point on, that’s when the modern Australia began,’ the PM said.

Yesterday afternoon, Byron Shire Council was issued with an edict by immigration minister David Coleman saying, ‘Citizenship ceremonies are non-commercial, apolitical, bipartisan and secular. They must not be used as forums for political, partisan or religious expression or for the distribution of material that could be perceived to be of a commercial, political or religious nature’.

‘The Byron Council has sought to politicise what should be a non-political day of celebration that brings communities together. The Council’s actions are divisive and the Australian Government will not stand by and allow this to happen.

‘The government’s position is very firm to ensure Australia Day is not politicised.’

Mayor won’t back down

Byron mayor Simon Richardson has confirmed the Council received a letter that would potentially prevent himself, deputy mayor Basil Cameron and GM Mark Arnold from conducting any citizenship ceremonies if it proceeds with plans to move the celebration of Australia Day.

He told Echonetdaily that Council was receiving legal advice on the implications of the letter but ruled out changing the date back.

As a compromise, he suggested holding the citizenship ceremony on the official day but moving all other official Council events to January 25.

‘We are intending to write back and say we are happy to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day – we hold six of them a year.

‘We can separate them and have the official Australia Day event on the 25th and the citizenship ceremony on the 26th, I’m happy to do that.

‘If they won’t allow us to do that then someone else can facilitate the ceremony,’ he said.

‘That would be a real shame because I think we do it beautifully in Byron and people who get their citizenship here appreciate the fact that we do it with a degree of light heartedness but also warm heartedness. We do it differently and with a lot less pomp and circumstance than other places.

‘And of course it may mean locals having to drive 40-odd kilometres to do it in a surrounding shire, so it’s a punitive and quite silly measure by the federal government.

‘Ironically as part of the citizenship ceremony, the minister who wants to take our powers away has a message that we are obliged to read out – and part of that actually says Australian history and culture began with our Indigenous people and was added to by people from all corners of the world.

‘So rather than reflecting history, we’re told about it but then denied [the opportunity of] acting on it,’ he said.

Asked if he thought the federal government may seek further ways of penalising Byron, such as withholding grant funding, the mayor said he thought not.

‘You’d like to think you can have a mature debate.

’We’re an important community; we’re deserving of the same amount of infrastructure support and I would consider any political leader to have the maturity to also acknowledge that we don’t agree on everything but it shouldn’t affect funding for a road or a storm water drain,’ Cr Richardson said.

Original report

Newly installed prime minister Scott Morrison (aka ScoMo) may be a busy guy but he he has enough time to promote the Daily Telegraph in a tweet and at the same time take a sideswipe at Byron mayor Simon Richardson’s plan to #changethedate.

Last week, Cr Richardson told The Echo, ‘The majority of our community feel desperately uneasy about celebrating Australia Day on a day that is associated with a lot of hurt and anger for Indigenous people.’

‘Why would we, being a nation that prides itself on the values of a “fair go”, equality and “mateship”, willingly choose a date that is not fair, hurts our fellow Australian mates and suggests that some Australians are more equal than others?

‘I believe Byron has an opportunity to help the nation make the transition away from the historical problem of this date while still honouring the needs and values of those who enthusiastically wish to celebrate our successes as a nation…’

Early on Monday ScoMo responded with a link to the Daily Telegraph’s unexpectedly subdued coverage of the call, which was probably due to the fact that it had been recycled from its stablemate the Northern Star.

‘Indulgent self-loathing doesn’t make Australia stronger,’ the PM tweeted.

‘Being honest about the past does. Our modern Aus nation began on January 26, 1788. That’s the day to reflect on what we’ve accomplished, become, still to achieve. We can do this sensitively, respectfully, proudly, together.’

Echo editor Hans Lovejoy, who is in the process of putting together this week’s Backlash column, responds.

‘Here’s some recent past history – Morrison’s government has contributed, and still does, to the appalling statistics on Indigenous incarceration, health, education, and is unable to agree to reconciliation or a treaty.

‘Morrison’s government has consistently resisted any meaningful improvements to the lives of the nation’s first people by ignoring decades of independent reports and inquiries. If these were implemented, it would go a long way towards addressing the appalling inequity.’


34 responses to “PM attacks Byron’s alternative Australia Day plan”

  1. Louise says:

    For someone who’s supposed to be a christian, the PM shows very little understanding or compassion for Australia’s first people who’s lives have been decimated since white invasion.

    No doubt he’ll continue to reduce funding for much needed services to Indigenous communities, while giving billions in subsidies to billionaire miners who are destroying the country.

  2. Peter Hatfield says:

    Lovejoy avoids responding directly to what the Prime Minister has said. He is quite correct that “Our modern Aus nation began on January 26, 1788” and correct too that we can celebrate our achievements “.. sensitively, respectfully, proudly, together.’ Richardson, Lovejoy and others who want to ignore the contribution of our early convict settlers do not celebrate Australia Day sensitively at all – they insult the very people who laid the foundations of a society that valued a “fair go”, equality and “mateship”.

    Lovejoy’s comments on the Prime Minsiter’s Government are quite absurd. What Government can be expected to resolveeven in one term the enormous problems of inter-generational poverty, violence, substance abuse, child abuse that are too prevalent in some indigenous communities – thankfully less prevalent in our region – when there is not consensus among indigenous communities and leaders nor within the academic and bureaucratic community who grapple with these issues. And can I remind Hans Lovejoy, Morrison’s governemnt is only a few weeks old. That someone would suggest that is sufficient time to comment on the history of the Morrison government goes a long way to explain why some people have trouble contextualizing and understanding our history of two centuries ago.

  3. Jim Beatson says:

    Scomo must like increasing the Greens vote in Byron Shire. Ben Franklin needs to have a word with Scott about retail politics that Slowmo claims to be an expert on.

    • Peter Hatfield says:

      The Prime Minister will not change the views of those who vote Green – Richardson reflects prejudices that are fed by selective, narrow and inaccurate histories of colonial Australia and they will not changed by appeals to reason. What he might do by making his a clear and sensitive comment is shift some Labor people elsewhere who are similarly annoyed by divisive actions like this that distort our history by not celebrating the birth of modern Australia and do not see Labor standing up to this nonsense. Seventy percent of Australians want to retain the current date; across Richmond the majority would probably agree with him. His comments will go down well in many marginal electorates, particularly in QLD and that could help him retain power. If he does retain power I hope he has the grace to send a thank you note to Richardson.

      • Louise says:

        Acknowledging what our convict ancestors contributed to modern Australia does not mean we have to ignore the consequent devastation visited upon the oldest culture on the planet.

        How would we feel if the Japanese had been successful in invading Australia, then proceeded to massacre, rape, take our children away, and destroy our culture, language and lives? We certainly wouldn’t want to celebrate that, so why insist we continue to rub salt into the wounds of Aboriginal people?

        • Peter Hatfield says:

          Australia as a modern nation was born on 26 January 1788. Acknowledging that does not ignore that events subsequently occurred that radically changed the lives of aboriginal people . The move to ignore 26 January attempts to rewrite history. It diminishes the role of early settlers in modern Australia . The Prime Minister’s call for a more sensitive celebration might draw historians attention to the the history of aboriginal people and their decedents who themselves became part of the development of the colonial economy and society and modern Australia.

          The Japanese did not invade Australia and it is pointless to draw an analogy from something that did not occur. We learn from history as it occurred for better of for worse, not from speculating about what might have happened.

  4. Quoll says:

    No, it was the penal colony of NSW that began on 26th Jan,1788, an open prison on the other side of the world to send the unwanted from England.. The circumnavigation of the continent, establishment of other penal colonies, and one free settled state, eventually led to the idea and concept of modern Australia, over a century later. Established on the stolen sovereignty of the indigenous people already here. As a federation of existing states.

    • Peter Hatfield says:

      January 1788 began a penal colony and that is not in itself a bad thing – every society needs to punish wrongdoers and empirically ours was successful in the numebr of former miscreants who became good law abiding citizens of a prosperous colonies. But it also introduced enormous changes that laid the basis of modern Australia. The penal colony introduced British law, civil and military bureaucracy and record keeping systems, the modern monetary economy British land survey and records, modern building and civil engineering techniques, faster transport, modern agriculture, new stock animals and much higher productivity in livestock management, individual freedom in marriage and belief and the worls’s accumulated knowledge. While we know it also introduced devastating illness and set in train the alienation of aboriginal land, we know the majority of aboriginal people very quickly accessed the introduced language, technologies and social and economic systems and became part of modern Australia.

      That all occurred long before the change in government arrangements that brought together six of seven very similar colonies with one language and similar governmental arrangements, economies and social arrangements into one nation. Federation is something to celebrate but it did not bring about the momentous changes that January 1788 did.

  5. J Doe says:

    Virtue signalling at its finest, nothing more.
    Not going to change history. Not going to change the future.
    A whole lot of hubbub over nothing.
    But hey news media – why waste an opportunity to further divide us?
    This is why I no longer pay much attention to the news…

  6. Eve Jeffery says:

    He is loving this distraction –

    let’s stir up everyone’s Trumped-Up patriotism then maybe they won’t look at how we treat our elder folk in nursing homes –

    that is, LOOK OVER THERE !

  7. Toby Fiander says:

    One thing that must change during this century is the insensitive date for ‘Australia Day’ of 26 January. Surely, it should be the 29th, the anniversary of the day on which old and new Australians first danced together.

  8. Wolfe says:

    Even Simon Richardson doesn’t have the supreme power (if any) to change our history!

  9. kiz says:

    Well done Byron Shire. I hope other councils now have the courage to follow your lead.

  10. Bob Basil says:

    Neither Mayor Richardson nor any of the councillors speak for me, in making the decision to opt out of Australia Day celebrations. I did not vote for the do nothing mayor when I had the opportunity and I certainly did not did not vote for Scummo who will go down in history as one of the shortest term PM’s we have had. Fact is, modern Australia did kick off on January 26th more than 200 years ago, and its a day we should ALL remember – for the good, the bad, the ugly and the obscene. Whilst celebrating the good on the day, we should remind ourselves at just how little things have actually changed since then – for our first peoples in particular. There has been much to laud as good, but also as as bad and ugly. To this day, our first peoples suffer gross obscenities in abundance in a nation that is one of the wealthiest on the planet. Byron Shire is not the “iconic” centre of best practice of anything, least of all in local government doing its job. If we are serious about recognising and doing something meaningful, BSC should implement a parallel Byron Bundjalung Peoples Council that all operates in parallel with the legislated corporation. Makes more sense than the symbolic puffery of opting out of Australia Day.

    Meanwhile perhaps Scummo might like to ponder whether the archaic chauvanistic political party that appointed him as PM, will survive the next election. A whole bunch of independents beating up on a minority labour or liberal government is the best case scenario. What an appalling outcome it would be if a bunch of union hacks and intellectual lightweights get to run the country with an absolute majority. Watch out Australia, and be very careful what you wish for.

  11. Jimbo J says:

    Simon Richardson, read this:

    “At a hastily convened press conference this morning (Tuesday, September 25) the PM said:”

    Like the PM gulped down his breakfast, slurped down his coffee, yelled down the line on the phone, hurried down stairs firing order to get the media news conference in line and the microphones ready, “Hey which is my best side for the camera,” because Scott Morrison had to tell the Byron Mayor Simon Richardson a thing or two in the media.
    Simon, his who whole day was upset. Just what did you do? Did you move the white nation to celbrate on another day?

  12. Chris Jones says:

    That’s it keep dividing the nation, how many times do we have to say sorry. The minority albeit vocal, are not in tune with the majority.

  13. Susie Forster says:

    It’s time to take a stand on this issue! Simon and the Byron Shire council have done just that. Good on ’em! As with all worthwhile changes, it won’t be painless and might take a while for others to follow. Well done to all involved.

  14. Jon says:

    Good on ScoMo. The country’s got enough divisive nutters without changing around our celebratory days and events to suit a rapidly dwindling minority of whingers and separatists. These people just like stirring conflict for its own sake and contribute nothing positive to the community.

  15. Ross says:

    Tell him (PM) to stick it up his jumper. Anyway, it dis not become a colony until 7 February 1788, when the formal proclamation of the colony and of Arthur Phillip’s governorship were read out.

    The vesting of all land in the reigning monarch King George III also dates from 7 February 1788.

    So the government has it wrong. I can therefore see no reason why 26 January 1788 can’t be recognised as Invasion Day. That’s the day the English sailed into Port Jackson/Sydney Harbour.

  16. The Sheriff says:

    Morrison and his apologists on this Comment page seem to be completely devoid of any understanding of our history. They are incapable of looking objectively at the past and need to do a little reading.

    Morrison’s plan for a separate day to ‘celebrate’ Aboriginal culture etc is divisive. And, it would not surprise me if he intended it to be so.

  17. Liz L says:

    You know you must have done something right if ScoMo doesn’t like it. The more councils that boycot this ridiculous day the stronger the message to Canberra will be. Who will do all those citizenship ceremonies?

    • Peter Hatfield says:

      It is not just that ScoMo does not like it – he has bought into the issue because 70% of Australians agree with keeping 26 January as the date of Australia Day.

      • Liz L says:

        Ah yes, ScoMo the champion of majority wishes – just like the marriage equality debate’

      • Liz L says:

        How many of the 70% know anything about what the date means? Probably not many of the boozy revellers bedecked in Aussie flags. Even the deputy Nationals leader thinks it marks the day Cook stepped ashore! It’s recently manufactured nationalism that my generation, and probably many before, saw no significance in despite a conveniently placed summer holiday.

        • Peter Hatfield says:

          So your response to people who recognise that 26 January marks the start of modern Australia is to question their knowledge of history and imply that they are boozy revelers? You imply without evidence – apart from the absurd suggestion that the Deputy Leader of the National’s ignorance somehow reflects the understanding of others – that those who agree with your view of our history are ipso facto better informed. That ignores the academic debates that surrounds settler and aboriginal history and historiography.

          Can I suggest that rather than relying on stereotypes and innuendo about the majority who wish to keep 26 January, you address the concerns people are raising about this insensitive move that denigrates our early settlers and the many indigenous people who worked with them to build modern Australia.

          • Liz L says:

            Don’t get light-headed up there on the high moral ground, Peter, I have done none of these things. I did not want to rehash all the argument and counter argument that has been ventilated on these pages and to which I have already contributed (as you know). I wished to make some isolated points:
            a) that levels of support don’t guarantee the morality or appropriateness of a position nor the level of awareness of the opinion holders
            b) that public opinion can be easily manipulated particularly if a bit of nationalism can be whipped up
            c) that it’s instructive that one significant pollie from the flag waving brigade showed such a lack of awareness
            d) that the fervour has largely been a recent phenomenon and, while I’m no wowser and don’t care if young people want to get boozed and party, if this is what the the celebration has largely become I’m not convinced it’s all about a belief in the sanctity of the historical event marked.

            I am quite sure you have a far superior knowledge of the history and still hold your well informed view. I just don’t agree with it

  18. Doug says:

    Personally, I think we could leave ‘Australia Day’ & just ignore it. We could move the public holiday to a newly proclaimed ‘Republic Day’ that is held on a day all Australians (except of course the misguided Royalists) can appreciate.

    Viva la Republic!

    regards, Doug

  19. Richard Jones says:

    Well done Simon.
    January 26 was celebrated only in New South Wales for the first hundred years or so.
    Convicts used to have drunken parties in the early days to celebrate the planting of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove.
    It only became a national day in 1994. Before that there were various days to celebrate.
    It would be simple matter to fix another date that’s non-controversial.
    Everyone would be happy.

  20. Tweed says:

    January 26th 1788, the day we celebrate the arrival of the first boat people to the penal colony of NSW in what was New Holland.
    The term Australia was not used until the British Admiralty gave us permission in 1834.
    Australia as a commonwealth of former colonies was founded on the 1st January 1901, that is and can only be Australia day. They are the facts and that is the history.

  21. Lindy Stacker says:

    Good on you Mayor Richardson & Byron councillors… don’t give up and satisfy the bully boy tactics of the ‘new’ ( but old thinking) Sco Mo Govt. I agree with Liz’s comment…IF Sco Mo is upset you know you’ve done the right thing. Remember his idiotic behaviour bringing a dollop of coal into parliament. Lets change the date and consider what Indigenous people want for a change…not what white, wealthy middle aged luddites want. I heard an Aboriginal woman say on radio “lets change the date to the 14th Feb ” unquote ? I had no idea what this meant ? She then said this is the day that Captain Cook was eaten…..Very funny I laughed for nearly an hour.

  22. Yeah! My Giddy Aunt said there’d be squabbles regarding
    this topic. However, I agree with Eve. How about full focus
    on ‘Aged Care’ since we all have that in common???

  23. Beth Shelley says:

    Good on you Byron. I’ve always felt that Australia Day had no meaning for me. I appreciate the analogy of how would we feel about the date of the Japanese invasion if it had happened? We would naturally hate that day when a violent, ruthless culture stole our land and value as human beings. It’s time to call it out. Yes maybe Morrison is hoping to make this a distraction but it is a great thing to make a stand about. I thank Simon and Byron council for doing this. It’s a fantastic statement.

  24. Okay, I’ll say it again. Indigenous First Nations are known as ‘a large body
    of people united by descent, history & culture who lived in a particular
    country’ as they still do today. As for the rest of us – we arrived later, one
    way or another. Under British law there were improvements & bugger-ups.
    But, seeing this is all about dates [white arrivals] & vote collecting pollies,
    it may be good manners to ask First Nation Elders & families their opinion.
    Good manners never hurt anyone. In case we forget, Invasion Day took
    place! There’s no argument on when that happened. And may I add, it’s
    forgotten too easily by many.

  25. Tina Anderson says:

    Why isn’t anyone talking about our independence day? Australia became an independent nation on 1 January 1901 when the British Parliament passed legislation allowing the six Australian colonies to govern in their own right as part of the Commonwealth of Australia. Surely this is an important date to all Australians, and certainly the government since it did not technically exist before that day. Like others here, I’m not accustomed to a “history” of Australia day being on a specific date. It changed frequently in the early days, often moved to accommodate long weekends. So quit carrying on like it’s some long-held tradition that has some kinda history coz it doesn’t! The Federation on the other hand…….

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