Labor, Libs Finally Agree On Something: Stopping A Conversation About Changing The Date


ANALYSIS: On any given day they appear to be in furious, bitter, toxic, disagreement on just about everything. But today, the Labor Party and the Liberal-Nationals finally found some common ground… opposition to a national conversation about the appropriateness of changing the date of Australia Day.

Note the ‘national conversation’ part. Labor and the Libs didn’t just join forces to oppose changing the date itself, they joined forces to oppose even having a discussion about it, or, God forbid, consulting with Indigenous Australians on the issue.

Earlier today in the Senate, Greens spokesperson on Indigenous affairs, Rachel Siewert, put forward the motion calling on the federal Senate to support all Australians ‘respectfully engaging in conversations’ around finding a more suitable date for our national day. The motion also called on the Federal Government to “engage and consult with First Nations peoples about changing the date of Australia Day so that all Australians can participate in celebrating this national day”.

Suffice to say, the motion won just 10 votes – nine of them were from the Greens members, with South Australian independent Senator Tim Storer (former Xenophon Team member) joining the ‘ayes’.

Everyone else in the Senate either didn’t show up (there were just 51 votes cast out of a possible 76) or voted against it, including the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, and Labor left warriors Doug Cameron and Kim Carr, himself a former opposition spokesperson on Indigenous affairs. Senators Derryn Hinch and David Leyonhjelm also voted against the discussion.

Indigenous affairs minister Senator Nigel Scullion.

Notable absences from the chamber were the extreme right fringes of our parliament – One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, former One Nation Senator Fraser Anning, and arch conservative Cory Bernardi.

Senator Siewert said she was disappointed at the outcome.

“We have seen some exciting developments this year with more local councils and community leaders working for justice in their communities,” she said.

“It’s disappointing that after the strong community support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the tabling of the report on Constitutional Recognition just last week that the major parties won’t even commit to this small step.

Greens Senator for WA, Rachel Siewert.

“It is very damaging to our community to keep denying the truth of how Australia was colonised by celebrating our country on January 26.

“As part of the process of truth, justice and healing it is important that we tell the truth about our history and acknowledge it is no longer appropriate to celebrate this nation on January 26.

“The Greens are committed to working with First Nations peoples and the community to find a day where we can all come together and celebrate. I hope that the major parties will join us.”

Following is the actual motion, and the list of ‘ayes’ and ‘noes’.

1318 – Australia Day

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. In more than three decades of journalism he's had his home and office raided by the Australian Federal Police; he's been arrested and briefly jailed in Israel; he's reported from a swag in Outback Australia on and off for years. Chris has worked across multiple mediums including print, radio and film. His proudest achievement is serving as an Associate producer on John Pilger's 2013 film Utopia. He's also won a few journalism awards along the way in both the US and Australia, including a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards. Since late 2021, Chris has been battling various serious heart and lung conditions. He's begun the process of quietly planning a "gentle exit" after "tying up a few loose ends" in 2024 and 2025. So watch this space.