Scott Morrison – WA Labor senator under fire for claiming Australia Day ‘celebrates white supremacy’
In the post, clearly marked as sponsored content paid for by the senator, she said the legacy of January 26 was “wrapped up” in modern racist policies such as cashless debit cards, the deaths of Indigenous people in custody and the nation’s failure to close the gap.
WA Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup lashed Senator Lines, saying the post’s language was unacceptable and divisive.
“Calling [Australia Day] racist and a celebration of white supremacy and using a Facebook post that is paid for by the taxpayer by a senior Labor politician is a shameful way to start dividing Australians,” he said.
“I urge the Premier to stand together with the Liberal Party here with all West Australians in condemning that language that is wholly unacceptable and does nothing to improve the welfare of Aboriginal people in Western Australia.”
Mr Kirkup, who has Indigenous heritage on his father’s side and wants Australia Day to remain on January 26, said Labor had no plan to address systemic issues faced by Aboriginal communities across the state.
Senator Lines said her opinion was based on conversations with Indigenous Australians across the country and vowed to continue to advocate for the date change. A spokeswoman said the post was not paid for with taxpayer money.
“Some of the responses to my post have been shocking but not surprising,” she told WAtoday.
“The debate around January 26 is not going away and each year gains more traction, some positive, but sadly the debate is becoming more polarised. In part this is because there has been no leadership from the Prime Minister.
“I have a responsibility to listen to and elevate the voices of First Nations people and not ignore the hurt and trauma that continuing to hold Australia Day on January 26 causes.”
WA Labor Premier Mark McGowan said he did not agree with Ms Lines but acknowledged Australia Day was a “difficult day for many people” and the debate would continue to fire up into the future.
Labor Leader Anthony Albanese spoke in support of keeping the date on Sydney’s 2GB radio last year, saying it was counter-productive to engage in culture wars.
A recent Ipsos poll for Nine, the owner of this masthead, found the campaign to change the public holiday date from January 26 was supported by fewer than one-third of Australians, although half believed the date would be shifted within a decade.
The survey showed support for the date change was higher among younger people, with 47 per cent aged between 18 and 24 supporting the move, compared to 19 per cent of those aged 55 and over.
Australia Day marks the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 and when Captain Arthur Phillip raised the Union Jack at Sydney Cove to proclaim British sovereignty. But that is also seen as the start of the dispossession of Indigenous Australians, who had inhabited the continent for tens of thousands of years prior.
The date became a national holiday, with all Australian states and territories celebrating on the same date, in 1994.
Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison came under fire for saying January 26 “wasn’t a particularly flash day” for British convicts on board the First Fleet either.
Mr Morrison’s comments followed a recommendation by Cricket Australia to dump the words “Australia Day” from promotions for Big Bash League fixtures on January 26.
Marta is an award-winning photographer and journalist with a focus on social justice issues and local government.