Greens may be off the mark with Australia Day push

Can it be true the Greens leader, Dr Richard Di Natale, really believes the date of Australia Day is one of the most important issues facing the nation at the start of 2018? Seriously?

He has told Fairfax he will be making the push to change the date on which the national day is celebrated one of his top priorities and that the Greens, who have more than 100 councillors in local government across the country, want to turbocharge the public debate.

Given that, thanks to the arguably disproportionate attention given to same sex-marriage and the chaos caused by the section 44 citizenship debacle, 2017 was pretty much a wasted year in Australian politics, this is a demonstrably bad idea.

Yes, the date on which we celebrate Australia Day is an important issue. Yes, there are powerful arguments to be made for and against the current date.

But, and this is a very big but, it is not going to save Aboriginal lives or improve health and educational outcomes for the Indigenous community now or ever.

Changing the date of Australia Day would be, in many ways, similar to Kevin Rudd's apology to the stolen generations a decade ago next month.


It would be welcomed by some as a symbol of progress and acceptance and criticised by others as surrendering to the black arm band view of history.

As a symbolic gesture it would certainly make a lot of people, most of them white, affluent and ideologically aware, feel good for a moment or two but, a decade from now, would be seen as a footnote that ranked well down any list of what a majority of Australians thought were major concerns.

What, if any, material and quantifiable benefits have flowed to the Indigenous community as a direct result of the apology on February 13, 2008?

And, as was the case with the apology push, any Greens move to make Australia Day a hot button issue would risk diverting attention away from the shortfalls in access to housing, justice, health and education and the awful life expectancy deficit that plagues the Indigenous community.

When the Greens, whose roots stretch back to the 1980s and the days of the Franklin Dam protests, were formed in 1992, the party had a strong environmental focus that saw it attract broadly based community support.

Its commitment to preserving the environment resonated strongly with an Australian community that has long prided itself on an affinity with nature, the great outdoors and "the bush".

The Greens have now evolved into a traditional party of the far left. Its policies include reviewing the relationship between property ownership and its exclusive use, the decriminalisation of all drugs, the reintroduction of death duties, road congestion charges and a ban on the importation of animals for zoos.

Unless the Greens shift their focus back to people's real concerns, such as the rising cost of energy, dwindling job security and the de facto national wage freeze, their next major battle may be the one for survival.