The furore over Australia Day continued to rage this week as Prime Minister Scott Morrison batted away calls to change the date of the national holiday and stripped a local council of its right to hold citizenship ceremonies after it brought its Australia Day celebrations forward by a day.
Despite refusing to back down on the topic, the PM then hinted at the idea of introducing a whole new national day which he said would “honour and acknowledge our indigenous peoples” as a way of forging stronger ties between all Australians.
Now The Project star Waleed Aly has weighed in on the issue, saying he believes people would happily agree to change the date if they were given a “good, alternative date”.
Speaking to co-stars Lisa Wilkinson, Fifi Box and Peter Hellier, he floated the idea of celebrating the national day on March 2 instead, the day then-Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Her Majesty the Queen signed the Australia Act.
“I think if you could float a really good alternative date people would shift pretty easily,” the 40-year-old said. “It was the date that the Australia Acts were passed.
“The Australia Acts were passed in Australia but also in Britain, and up until that point the British government could’ve more or less eliminated Australia. They could’ve just passed a law and said Australia no longer exists … and that was in the ‘80s that we passed that law.
“So it was only then that we became a proper fully independent or sovereign nation, and the weather’s good in March so let’s get to it!”
On Monday, Morrison blasted Byron Shire Council’s decision to celebrate on January 25, 2019, which is said to have been made in acknowledgement of the belief that January 26 marks “the day the cultural decimation and denigration of the First Australians began”.
Responding to an article published in The Daily Telegraph, the PM said: “Indulgent self-loathing does not make Australia stronger. Being honest about the past does – our achievements and our failings.
“We should not rewrite our history. Our modern Australian nation began on January 26, 1788. That is the day to reflect on what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve become and what we still have to achieve. We can do this sensitively, respectfully, proudly and, most importantly, together. That’s my plan.”