Former Coalition MP and cabinet minister Ian Macfarlane is pushing for Australia to scrape off the “barnacle” of Australia Day being marked on January 26.
The retired federal MP thinks March 1 would be a better day to commemorate the occasion, saying it’s not about pleasing people but rather uniting Australians.
“Why do I think we should we change the date from January 26? Simple. Because not all of us feel the same way about that date,” he will say at the Australian Unity’s Great Australia Day Breakfast in Melbourne.
Responding to Mr Macfarlane’s comments, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said those who wanted to change the date of Australia Day should “crawl under a rock”.
Mr Macfarlane says he’s not known as a bleeding heart, but for the first time in his 25 years of public life he’s going to make what some might call “bleeding-heart comments”.
He thought “Bloody ABC” when Triple J announced 2017 would be the last Australia Day with its famous Hottest 100, because of the offence the celebration was causing to indigenous Australians.
“Then Fremantle City Council announced it was cancelling its Australia Day citizenship ceremony and fireworks for this year. “Bloody latte-drinking trendies,” I thought,” he says.
But the former minister then thought how his Scottish cousins would feel if they had to celebrate United Kingdom day on the anniversary of the Vikings launching an amphibious attack on Arrochar.
“It was the moment I decided that as a conservative, Anglo-Celtic Australian, I want to play a part in the push to changing the date of Australia Day,” he says.
“It’s about healing a wound, drawing a line, getting on with the really important issues facing our indigenous communities.”
He says the date still has to be a warm month because he can’t imagine an Australia Day without backyard cricket, barbecues and pool parties.
Why March 1? Mr Macfarlane says it would commemorate the date in 1901 that the first Commonwealth government began taking control of many of the functions formerly exercised by the colonies.
“To me, it’s the day that represents Australians coming together as one nation under one government.”
Treasurer Scott Morrison agrees with Mr Joyce, seeing no need to change the date.
“Australian stories go back well beyond the time that the First Fleet first arrived in Australia and all Australians, I think, can embrace all of our stories,” he told ABC radio.
GetUp says all its staff will either work or join indigenous Invasion Day protests on Thursday. One of his former colleagues might be pushing for the date of Australia Day to be moved to unite the country, but Barnaby Joyce isn’t having a bar of it.
The deputy prime minister believes the idea of moving away from January 26 is political correctness gone mad and those pushing for change should bypass the public holiday and go to work.
Mr Joyce is tired of people weeping about Australia Day when they live in a nation that is democratic, has free education, basic free health, is well defended, and that looks after its poor.
“Today is a day about celebration,” he told 2GB radio on Thursday, over the phone from his Tamworth home.
“I’m just sick of these people who every time they want to make us feel guilty about it. They don’t like Christmas, they don’t like Australia Day, they’re just miserable … and I wish they’d crawl under a rock and hide for a little bit.”