Sunrise host Nat Barr has called out Anthony Albanese for a lack of leadership, saying the Prime Minister should make a call on the future of Australia Day so that the nation can stop “tiptoeing around”.
Millions of Aussies will get the day off work to celebrate the national holiday on Friday, which coincides with the anniversary of the First Fleet landing at Sydney Cove in 1788.
Meanwhile, thousands will spend the day attending rallies in support of First Nations Australians who recognise the date as a day of mourning for the dispossession of their land, often referred to as Invasion Day.
In recent years, a growing sense of unease has been felt both by those who celebrate the national holiday and those who don’t, with calls for the government to change the date intensifying.
“Do you think most Australians are getting sick of this tiptoeing around Australia Day, and there should be some leadership from the top so that we don’t have to all sort of be embarrassed about what we’re doing on that day?” Barr asked Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt on Monday morning.
Senator Watt came to Mr Albanese’s defence and said he didn’t believe it was the Prime Minister’s job to lead a debate about Australia Day.
“I don’t see the Prime Minister being the one who’s getting out there leading some sort of debate about Australia Day,” he said.
Unwilling to back down on the matter, Barr probed further, saying, “That's what I mean, should there be (a debate)?”
“Well, it’s a democracy and people are entitled to their different views,” Senator Watt replied.
“But what I don’t think is right is what we saw from Peter Dutton a week or so ago talking about using Australia Day to boycott a supermarket.
“We are much more focused on things like the war on inflation rather than culture wars and whether supermarkets sell the right kind of thongs. I think that’s what most Australia want the government focused on.”
Opposition Leader Mr Dutton called on Australians to boycott Woolworths and Big W after they announced they would not stock Australia Day merchandise this year due to a “gradual decline in demand”.
Cricket Australia announced on Sunday that it wouldn’t use the words “Australia Day” during Friday’s Test match between Australia and the West Indies, CODE Sports reports.
Organisers behind the Australian Open tennis tournament will also avoid commemorating January 26 for the second year in a row.
Appearing on 2GB on Monday morning, NSW Premier Chris Minns called the move “extremely strange” and urged the sporting bodies to rethink the decision.
“They should mention it,” he told Ben Fordham on Monday morning.
“This is a day for us all to celebrate with your family and friends, recognise that we live in the greatest country on Earth. I definitely will be doing that.”
Senator Watt said Cricket Australia was entitled to make its own decisions but doubled down on the government’s stance that there were no plans to change the date anytime soon.
“I’ll be celebrating Australia Day myself on Thursday at a citizenship ceremony and probably a barbie after that,” he said.
“I know the Prime Minister is planning to celebrate Australia Day, but we respect the fact that different people have got different views about this.”