'Not even a debate': PM shuts down Sunrise host's Australia Day question

Olivia Lambert
·News Editor

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has claimed the date of Australia Day should not be changed despite fierce debate over the issue in recent years.

Many Indigenous leaders have been pushing for the date of Australia Day to be moved from January 26, the date that marks the First Fleet landing in 1788 and the beginning of British colonisation.

A new survey released by the Institute of Public Affairs on Monday said despite the debate, 71 per cent of Australians were in favour of keeping the date as is.

The poll found the 71 per cent believe “Australia has a history to be proud of” and “Australia Day is an authentic way for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to celebrate being Australian”.

On Monday morning Sunrise breakfast show co-host Samantha Armytage grilled Mr Morrison over whether he agreed with the results of the poll or if he thought the date should be changed.

Scott Morrison (right) appears on the Sunrise breakfast program as host Samantha Armytage (left) questions him.
Samantha Armytage questions Prime Minister Scott Morrison over changing the date of Australia Day. Source: Sunrise/Twitter

Armytage said the change the date debate had not been talked about much this year and said it could be because Australians had other things to talk about.

“We do have something to talk about and that is people affected by bushfires,” Mr Morrison replied.

“On Australia Day I will be saying thank you to every volunteer that has supported everyone through this terrible crisis.”

Armytage interrupts Mr Morrison and asks him blunty: “So you think it should stay?”

“Well of course I do,” he said.

“It’s not even a debate we’re having at the moment. I don’t want to be distracted by that. It is a time to say thanks to those volunteers. Especially those volunteer firefighters.”

Mr Morrison’s sentiments are similar to those of his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, who in 2018 said: “I'm disappointed by those who want to change the date of Australia Day... seeking to take a day that unites Australia and Australians and turn it into one that will divide us.

“We recognise that the history of European settlement here in Australia has been complex and tragic for Indigenous Australians... Australia Day is a day to come together.”

Scott Morrison’s extraordinary swipe at minister

The prime minister also took an extraordinary personal swipe at a NSW Liberal government minister on Monday in a bid to downplay alleged divisions in the party over climate action.

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean has spoken out about tensions in the party over the issue, telling Sky News senior cabinet ministers want the prime minister to take strong action.

"Matt Kean doesn't know what he's talking about. He doesn't know what's going on in the federal cabinet," Mr Morrison told ABC radio.

"Most of the federal cabinet wouldn't even know who Matt Kean was."

The prime minister, who is from the NSW branch of the party himself, has claimed the climate divisions are a "beat up".

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean speaks during Question Time in the Legislative Assembly at New South Wales Parliament House in Sydney.
NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean says there are tensions in the Liberal party over the issue of climate change. Source: AAP

The deadly and unprecedented bushfires have renewed public pressure on the government over its climate policies, with calls for the coalition to take more action.

It has also seen a public shift in Mr Morrison's approach to talking about the issue, insisting his government has always understood climate change, while some backbenchers continue to decry the science.

Mr Morrison has turned his focus on climate change adaptation and resilience, but has backed coal exports and rejected a price on carbon emissions.

About half of Australia's emissions reduction goal – a 26 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030 – will be achieved by using past credit, which Mr Morrison is standing by firmly.

Federal Labor's policies remain under review after the party's election loss last year, but the opposition is reportedly planning to announce a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This is in line with scientific advice, particularly from United Nations climate policy experts who have extensively modelled the impacts of climate change.

Mr Morrison thinks Labor's likely target will cost Australian jobs.

With AAP

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