Turnbull Criticises Australia Day Debate

Turnbull government ministers are defending the date of Australia Day despite a push from the Greens to change the commemoration.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull led the charge, expressing his disappointment about the latest debate in the lead up to January 26.

In a video posted to Twitter on Monday night, Mr Turnbull says a free country debates its history and does not deny it.

“I’m disappointed by those who want to change the date of Australia Day … seeking to take a day that unites Australia and Australians and turn it into one that will divide us,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We recognise that the history of European settlement here in Australia has been complex and tragic for indigenous Australians … Australia Day is a day to come together.”

His colleague Alex Hawke acknowledges the day has different meanings for different people but denies it has become divisive.

“It is a date I think that has overwhelming community support,” the assistant minister told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“This is effectively a Greens’ publicity stunt on repeat.”

Greens leader Richard Di Natale believes it’s time Australia stops papering over an issue which, he says, has been divisive and painful for many for 200 years.

However, former prime minister Tony Abbott says there are 364 other days a year for the Greens to be politically correct and January 26 is the best date to celebrate all that’s good about life in Australia.

Neither Labor nor the government endorse a date change, which has been adopted by a number of local councils.

At least two NSW councils are likely to join Melbourne counterparts in changing the way they mark the day, the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday.

Indigenous leaders have been pushing for the change in recent years. January 26 marks the date the First Fleet landed in Sydney Cove in 1788 and the beginning of British colonisation.

Former Wimbledon tennis champion Pat Cash says his experiences working with a charity in indigenous communities have taught him not to celebrate Australia Day.

“Surely we can find a day that the first Australians can celebrate… Shouldn’t they be the first ones to pick the date?” he told ABC radio.

He also urged Mr Turnbull to visit remote communities to see the poverty first-hand and to learn what people think about the day.