Citizenship ceremonies directive the start of a dirty election campaign
No one will be surprised that as we approach Australia Day the debate about whether 26th January is the right day ramps up.
To add fuel to the fire Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s latest example of government by thought bubble has threatened local councils that don’t hold their citizenship ceremonies on 26th January. He’s also laid down the law on how we should dress for the ceremonies, an odd one from someone who seems to be vying for the title of Australia’s most well-known ‘daggy dad’.
The debate is heating up not just because Australia Day is almost here, but also because the PM has already kicked off the 2019 federal election campaign by clearly ratcheting up the ‘culture wars’ as one of his campaign tools, through an appeal to our patriotism. As such this promises to be a particularly ugly campaign, replete with racist dog whistles.
As Greens leader Richard Di Natale said, warnings on people-smuggling operations and forcing local councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26 was evidence that the coalition plans to fight dirty.
“No question we’ve got an election coming up which will be fought on fear and division,” Senator Di Natale told reporters in Melbourne last Monday.
“They’ll try and divide and conquer the Australian community in an effort to win the next election, that’s what they do,” he said.
The coalition is also warning people-smuggling operations could ramp up again if Labor wins the next election, after a boat was intercepted off Malaysia 10 days ago.
Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge also pointed out another link when he tweeted “This is some serious culture war nonsense from a PM who wants to cover up for the disaster in the Murray Darling among other things.”
The PM’s directives were met with mixed reactions. Most of the commercial mainstream media, reflecting its conservative bias, was strongly in support, though it was pleasing to see the DA reflect Mayor Greg Conkey’s sensible response.
Social media was a different story, with many posts quite rightly pouring scorn on Mr Morrison’s instructions.
Labor’s Bill Shorten, probably because he didn’t want to frighten the horses in this election year opposed ‘changing the date’, though he did quite rightly point out that “The Government’s trying to play a bit of politics. It’s what the conservatives do to keep their base happy, talking about this.”
Thankfully though the Greens responded in force, promising to make changing the date a major focus this year. Predictably the Federal Government hit back, calling it a publicity stunt that aims to divide the nation. In my book it is a sensible suggestion to improve the situation.
Di Natale said January 26 “was a difficult day for many Indigenous Australians.” As such is frequently referred to as either ‘Invasion Day’ or ‘Survival Day.
He said changing the date would acknowledge the effect the day has on our First People.
“I think we’re at the start of a very important conversation across the country, and I’m very optimistic that over time we will see momentum for this change grow,” he said.
There are specific, more appropriate ‘change the date’ solutions to this problem including the anniversary of the proclamation of the independence of the Commonwealth of Australia, though as that’s 1st January it could also be problematic.
27th May is an option, referring to the 1967 referendum to include Indigenous Australians as citizens. Almost 91 per cent of Australians voted Yes. It also marks the beginning of National Reconciliation Week every year.
We could of course consider whether we really need a national day at all. Not all nations do, and perhaps the world would be a better place without all the hyper nationalistic chest beating and flag waving that goes on during such days.
And have we really much to celebrate? As Luke Pearson said “I have come to the opinion that there are too many people who seem to think the problem with Australia Day rests solely on the day we celebrate it, not with what we are celebrating” (The Guardian). “I don’t really feel that Australia, where we sit right now, is worth celebrating”. Well said Luke.