Subjects: Australia Day; Vandalism attacks on Captain Cook statue/ Burke and Wills memorial
I just want to make a few comments about Australia Day, which of course is tomorrow. Australia Day is the single day of the year which unites this country, where all of us come together to celebrate everything that is great about this country.
It is our egalitarian spirit, it is the freedom and prosperity, it is our great modern multicultural character, and of course it is our Indigenous heritage – the oldest continuous culture on this planet. All of us are beneficiaries of this modern state.
Additionally, tomorrow is the most popular day for people to become citizens of this country. Tomorrow on Australia Day, 13,000 new migrants will become citizens of Australia.
It will be a day which they remember for the rest of their lives and in part because becoming a citizen of Australia, whether you were born here or you are a new migrant, is like winning the lottery of life.
Can I also just make some comments about the desecration of the monuments which has occurred today in this city.
I think that is a disgrace, and it will achieve nothing. I hope that the people who did that vandalism are caught and are prosecuted.
I am happy to take any questions.
What is your message for people for tomorrow if this is the day before and we are seeing this, do you fear that we will have more problems?
Tomorrow is a great unifying day for the country. The vast majority of every-day Australians
will come together at barbeques or citizenship ceremonies or other events to celebrate everything that is unique and fantastic about Australia.
To those people who want to protest about Australia Day – can I just say, protest about the country on every other day of the year, if you like. But let us enjoy Australia Day for what it is, and that is a great celebration of everything that is terrific about this country.
What do you think about some places putting their flags at half-mast?
I think that is ridiculous. This is an amazing country, I think the best country in the world; where opportunities are only limited by your imagination. To suggest that this is a day of mourning, I just think is wrong.
So are you suggesting that the Indigenous leaders who believe it is a day of mourning are wrong?
This is a day where all of us unite together to celebrate all that is great about this country, which includes our Indigenous heritage, our British foundations and our modern multicultural character.
Inevitably, every single formal ceremony tomorrow will include a formal acknowledgement and a recognition and a celebration of our Indigenous culture, as it should because it is a part of our heritage and it is the oldest continuous culture on this planet.
It is a key part of Australia and we properly celebrate that, as we celebrate the other attributes of this country.
The state Opposition obviously came out with their policy today to change the Local Government Act. Will you think about giving certain councils that have lost their Australia Day ceremony rights back their rights if they are brought in?
The decision of Matthew Guy today is very consistent with what we are trying to achieve by removing the rights of councils to hold citizenship ceremonies, should they not hold them on January 26.
We want to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day because it is the most popular day of the year for new migrants to become citizens and if the councils do not want to hold them then we will give those citizenship ceremonies to other organisations to hold them so that those 13,000 new migrants tomorrow can properly celebrate becoming a citizen on our national day.
Have you been briefed on potential violence breaking out at events across Australia?
I hope that does not occur. I hope that people, if they want to protest, protest peacefully. But I hope that people will celebrate everything that is great about this country tomorrow and not make it a divisive day.
An Aboriginal activist has suggested anyone who is of Aboriginal heritage be entitled to Australian citizenship. So someone with an Aboriginal great-grandmother would have automatic Australian citizenship by virtue of descent, even if they or their parents have never lived here. What do you think of that?
The Citizenship Act actually came into force on the 26th of January 1949 and on that day every single person became an Australian citizen, whether they were Indigenous or otherwise. It is an important moment in terms of that milestone.
We have very good processes for becoming a citizen. Those who become citizens of this country, they do so because they are attracted to the freedom, prosperity, the egalitarian nature of this country and they are committing themselves to our values and to integrate and contributing to the Australian story.
What would you say to members of the public who think that you are perhaps putting the priorities of migrants ahead of the priorities of Indigenous Australians?
There are mixed views amongst Indigenous Australians, just as there are mixed views amongst non-Indigenous Australians. A very prominent Indigenous leader wrote an article in the Herald Sun today arguing, very compellingly, why it should remain on January 26.
As I have said, at every single formal ceremony tomorrow, there will be an acknowledgement of our Indigenous heritage. It is a core part of our culture and of our country and we rightfully celebrate that because it is in part what makes Australia unique.
We do have the oldest continuous Indigenous culture in the world, right here in this great land.
Are you of the view that this is going to be a key polling issue heading into the next election?
All the polls indicate that Australians are very happy to celebrate Australia Day on January 26. We have been doing so for many decades now and I hope we continue to do so.
Has there been discussions behind the scenes in your party about this potentially
We are very committed to holding the Australia Day celebrations on January 26.