MPs savage Albo’s ‘f***ing disaster’ idea
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has copped a flogging on social media and from some of his own MPs for calling for a referendum on Australia Day on constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
News.com.au has confirmed the big idea, rolled out at an Australia Day ceremony in Canberra, is a "Captain's Pick" that has never been to shadow cabinet and agreed to by MPs who fear it could backfire and prompt Australians to vote down constitutional recognition.
A referendum on constitutional recognition for First Australians being held on 26 January would be a unifying moment for our nation https://t.co/gY4ER2m6lr— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) January 26, 2021
But it was privately slammed as "C.R. A. Z. Y" by one of his own MPs and a "f***ing disaster" by another who spoke to news.com.au after Mr Albanese floated the concept.
It's even been compared to the same sex marriage debate, with concerns that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders would be subjected to a protracted debate about their rights culminating in a divisive vote on the day white settlers arrived in 1788.
The Labor leader billed the idea as a unifying moment to end the divisive debate about the national day and acknowledge the nation's brutal past.
Mr Albanese urged the nation to acknowledge that "it is a very difficult day for First Nations peoples, that First Nations peoples didn't have a Welcome to Country for the First Fleet."
"One of the things that I proposed, now three years ago on Australia Day in 2018, was the idea that what we could do, perhaps, is to consider having the date for the constitutional recognition of First Australians, have that referendum on 26 January so that truly was the date in which we could remember our history and our past but also acknowledge, of course, that it is a very significant day,'' he said.
"We need to work out ways in which we avoid the divisive debate that has occurred every year around this time, about the choice of date to have our national day."
Labor frontbencher Linda Burney, the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the Australian House of Representatives in 2016, confirmed to news.com.au that the thought bubble was not official ALP policy.
"It's more of the idea of a suggestion. The Morrison Government has not made any headway,'' she said.
Asked if holding the referendum on Australia Day would be divisive, Ms Burney said it might not be the case.
"To be really honest I've been so busy today I haven't really thought about it,'' she said.
"Obviously, Australia Day is a very difficult day and a very painful day for first nations people. It's possible. It doesn't matter what you do on January 26."
But Mr Albanese was dragged on social media over the "incredibly stupid" idea by voters, many of whom said they were Labor supporters.
"Dreadful idea. You must have learned something from the Marriage Equality fiasco. Campaign to change the date,'' said Peter Logue.
"Tin ear Albo they call him,'' said Evan Beaver.
"Indigenous people: Jan 26 sucks as a national date. Tin ear: let's have recognition on Jan 26."
"Mate, you're running out of reasons why you shouldn't be ditched for the empty chair,'' said another Twitter user.
"This is a supremely cowardly and unhelpful idea and entirely on brand for today's ALP,'' said another.
Mr Albanese said Triple J moving its Hottest 100 event from Australia Day was an example of how younger Australians were uncomfortable with the day.
"It seems to me that we do need to have a day in which everyone can celebrate, and particularly young Australians, increasingly, I guess, engaged in this debate,'' he said.
"You've had issues like the Hottest 100 moved from this date to an earlier day. I think that it's time to have a debate about how we move forward in a way that truly unites the nation, one that recognises dispossession, but one that also recognises that modern Australia has continued to evolve and will continue to evolve into the future."
Mr Albanese first raised the idea in February 2018, before he was elected as Labor leader.
He proposed a two question referendum on not only recognition but also an Australian Republic.
"A referendum held on 26 January to recognise First Australians in our Constitution, along with a second question about the move to being a republic, would be an exciting opportunity to forge a path forward for Australia's future,'' he said.
"It would mean Australia had a day that recognised our modern history of new arrivals; our continuous history of Indigenous Australians, dating back at least 65,000 years; and our declaration of confidence that we are a modern, independent state with an Australian as its head. I don't declare that this proposal is the idea, just an idea, to avert a divisive debate about when to celebrate Australia Day."
Australia Day can be a dangerous day for national leaders. Six years ago, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott set the clock ticking on his own leadership with the "Captain's Pick" of knighting Prince Phillip.
Mr Albanese also slammed the decision to award Margaret Court the highest honour in Australia, a Companion of the Order of Australia on the grounds she "hasn't struck a ball" in many years.
"She hasn't struck a ball in anger in a major tennis tournament for many, many decades,'' he said.
"But Margaret Court, her award clearly was not about tennis."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered his own speech on Australia Day in Canberra, saying there is no escaping the fact 26 January marks the date Australia changed forever.
"We do it on this day when the course of this land changed forever," he said.
"There is no escaping or cancelling that fact, for better or worse. It was the moment where the journey to our modern Australia began, and it is this continuing Australian journey that we recognise today."
Originally published as MPs savage Albo's 'f***ing disaster' idea