Hanson Young: I rise to speak in support of the disallowance motion before us. The motion will disallow a regulation that a very petty government has put forward in order to bully local governments out of making their own democratic choices as to when they want to celebrate their citizenship ceremonies. Local councils to take great pride in these ceremonies. As a senator for South Australia, I have attended many of them, including in my local council area in the city of Mitcham. It’s one of the most delightful things that we get to do as senators. You talk to and listen to the stories of people who have actively chosen to make Australia their home. I must say that, when I’m there and in that moment, hearing their stories and hearing the passion from individuals about why they have taken up citizenship in Australia, it makes me feel a little bit sad that I didn’t ever get the opportunity to choose to become an Australian; I just am. As many of us are, I was lucky enough to be born in this country and, as a result, am an Australian citizen, but sometimes I think how nice it would be to have actively chosen to become part of this great nation and part of the Australian community.
When you hear the stories of why people have chosen to become Australian citizens and the passion with which they speak about their decisionâ€”they often come to join family or bring their family with themâ€”it’s often one of the best reminders of what makes our country great. I love Australia. I think it is the best country in the world, and I love hearing why people from other corners of the globe love this country too. One of the reasons why Australia is such a great nation is that we have a proud history of welcoming others, of helping each other out, of looking after each other and of making sure that, when somebody is a little bit full of themselves, we remind them that we’re all equal. We have so many great Australianisms that make us a unique, vibrant and safe place.
I have been reflecting on why the government has decided to try and bully these local councils out of their decision not to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day. It is because, in reflecting on what makes Australia a great country and as a community and a group of citizens on why we all love dearly to be Australian, these councils have bravely taken the opportunity to say that every person in Australia deserves to be able to celebrate being a member of the Australian community together on the same day. We know that 26 January is not a day that can be celebrated by everyone and never will be a day that can be celebrated by everybody. That is because it is a day that is very, very reminiscent and symbolic of the day that the British invaded this country. And it marked the beginning of the slaughter and the genocide of First Australians. We’ve been debating the issue of changing the date of Australia Day in this country ever since 26 January was chosen to be our national day. Back in 1938, in the first year that Australia Day was marked as a national day of celebration, there was a very live debate about whether this day was the most appropriate. Indigenous communities and leaders of First Australian communities stood up in 1938 and said, ‘This is not a day that we can feel part of, that we can celebrate and that enables us to be included in the progress of our nation.’ They begged the rest of the community leaders to choose a different dayâ€”one that was more unifying.
Decades and decades on, we are still having this debate. Some people say we shouldn’t worry about this, that Indigenous Australians should just get over it. Some of the most offensive comments of racism and dismissal of generations of being disenfranchised, of genocide, have been simply used as an excuse not to have this debate in this place or even in the public eye. This year, when local councils decided that they would choose a different day to celebrate Australia Day, a different day to celebrate being part of the wonderful Australian community, it caused a massive political stoush. And the ideological warriors from the right-wing corners of the politics in this place raised their ugly head, and we saw some of the most offensive comments about how Aboriginal and Indigenous and First Australians should simply get over the history, suck it up, and we can all move on and pretend that Australia Day being celebrated on 26 January is okay. Well, it’s absolutely not.
We heard from Senator Pauline Hanson, the leader of One Nationâ€”that people were being too precious and that of course we should be celebrating Australia Day on 26 January because it was the day of Federation. Wrong! It is not the day of Federation, Senator Hanson. In fact, the day of Federation would be a great day for us to celebrate as our national day of unity. The day of Federationâ€”for those of you playing at homeâ€”is 1 January.
I think we’re mature enough as a nation to be able to have this discussion. I think we should be embracing this debate. But the tactics from the government of bullying two local councils out of making their own choice about holding citizenship ceremonies on a day other than 26 January just shows how afraid of this debate the government is. Why on earth is the federal government getting involved in trying to dictate whether local councils can hold citizenship ceremonies and the days on which they are held? Haven’t they got better things to do with their time than bullying small, local councils out of choosing what days they hold events?
Obviously not, but that is because this is more of an ideological and cultural war. This government is so obsessed with dividing groups in the community.
When I think about Australia Day, I think about celebrating as a nation the various, diverse and rich tapestries of our different communities and the success of Australia being a multicultural nation. I think about that picture of the two young girls from Melbourne who proudly wore their headscarves with their Australian flags in their hands. I think about Australia’s soldiers, returned from places like Afghanistan and Iraq, who have harrowing stories to tell but amazing stories of mateship and community, of young men and women who have been told that they can’t talk about the horrors that they saw when they were there and that those young men and women have a right to feel part of this community as well. I think about the young Indigenous kids in my home state of South Australia who every year make an effort to feel part of and included in the Australian community. But that Australia Day is not the Australia Day we’ve currently got. We can’t do that on 26 January when we know that Indigenous Australians, our first people, can’t and won’t be able to celebrate and feel included on a day that symbolises murder, slaughter, genocide and generations of discrimination and racism.
What I hate seeing is the pseudo-nationalists who drape themselves in the Australian flag, wear the flag as balaclavas and run around pretending as though they represent our great nation. If you want to talk about what is offensive when it comes to Australia Day, it’s a bunch of drunk blokes running around wearing Australian flags as balaclavas, espousing racism and bigotry. That doesn’t make us proud to be Australian. It doesn’t make me proud to celebrate Australia Day when I see behaviour like that. I don’t think it would make any of us proud.
But, of course, what we have here from the government is that they don’t want to participate in this debate. They want to bully local governments and stir the ideological pot. They don’t want to take on racism and bigotry. They want to shut down the democratic rights of local councils to make their own decisions. It’s just pathetic.
If we’re worried about people understanding, recognising and celebrating Australian history, how about we start with educating people in the Senate like Senator Hanson, the leader of One Nation, who thinks that Australia Day is the day of Federation. Well, it’s not. Senator Hanson has just walked into the chamber, so I’ve decided to remind her that through you, Acting Deputy President Williams Federation is 1 January, not 26 January.
This is an important national conversation that we should be having about changing the date of Australia Day. It’s a debate that started in 1938. It hasn’t gone away and it won’t go away. The date of Australia Day will change. It will change. It’s not a matter of what or if; it’s simply a matter of when.
Chamber Senate on 19/10/2017Item REGULATIONS AND DETERMINATIONS – Citizenship (Authorisation) Revocation and Authorisation Instrument 2017, Citizenship (Authorisation) Revocation and Authorisation Amendment Instrument 2017 – Disallowance Speaker: Hanson-Young, Sen Sarah/ Parliment of Australia Transcript used for reporting News