Interview with Samantha Armytage and Natalie Barr, Sunrise

25 Sep 2018
Prime Minister
Australia Day

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Prime Minister Scott Morrison joins me now from Auburn in Sydney's west.

PRIME MINISTER: Good morning Sam.

ARMYTAGE: Shouldn't local government have the right to decide what is best for their community when it comes to celebrations?

PRIME MINISTER: Not when it comes to holding citizenship ceremonies. That is a responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. Citizenship ceremonies shouldn’t be used as a political football. They are about new Australians becoming new Australians and becoming part of our national family. It’s the job of councils to book the hall, run the ceremony with dignity and respect and not use it as a political football. If councils want to get into that, well, they won’t be given that opportunity to host those ceremonies and we will be stripping that responsibility from the Byron Shire Council for that very reason. There are other people who can do them, who want to do it properly. If councils want to act up like that, well the Commonwealth can always go somewhere else. Citizenship is about the citizens. It’s not about the egos of counsellors.

NATALIE BARR: You also want to create a new national day for Indigenous Australians. Do you have a preferred date for that?

PRIME MINISTER: I have said just today that it would be good to have a chat about it. We should think about it. I mean, we don't have to pull Australia Day down to actually recognise the achievements of Indigenous Australians, the oldest living culture in the world. The two can coexist. And so, Australia Day was that fulcrum point. The 26th of January 1788 - that was the day that Australia changed forever. We can't just pretend like it wasn't that day something else happened. We should be acknowledging, I think, the great work of Indigenous Australians and their contribution to our nation. I think there’s opportunities about that. I'm happy to have a consultation about that, talk to the states and territories, Indigenous communities, hear back from Australians. But you don't have to tear down one group to raise up another and that’s something I feel very strongly about that. We can recognise the contributions of all Australians from our first to our most recent.

BARR: But I guess Mr Morrison, we've been talking and maybe arguing about another Indigenous day for several years now. So to put this out in the public arena, haven't you got an idea for another date?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I’ve got some private thoughts but I'm more interested to know what other Australians think. I mean in the ACT, for example, they note May 27, which is the anniversary of the ‘67 referendum, which recognised Australian people in our Constitution. I mean that’s a pretty significant day I think for Indigenous Australians. But it is not a day for being down in the mouth. It should be a day for celebrating and acknowledging and respecting our Indigenous peoples, our Aboriginal peoples, our Torres Strait Islander peoples, and what they've been able to achieve over 60,000 years plus. And particularly in a modern Australia.

ARMYTAGE: Do you see this, Prime Minister, as being like Australia Day? As being a public holiday and a huge national celebration?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not getting too far ahead of myself on this, or the country. I think it’s important, states and territories, they decide ultimately what a public holiday is. There gazette those and there are implications for businesses and so one and I'm sure they’d have views. I'm happy to have a chat about it but my point was this. You’ve got a whole of people who are trying to tear down Australia Day. I know some people are motivated by the fact that they want to recognise Indigenous people more and I get that. There are others who are just being goons about this. We’re not going to cop that. That’s why we’ll take citizenship ceremonies away in those circumstances. But we… you don’t have to do drag some people down to lift others up. It's the same when I talk about tax. Why do you have to tax people more to tax others less? That’s not how you bring Australians together. I want to bring Australians together about this, not drive them apart.

ARMYTAGE: Ok, alright Prime Minister, well we appreciate your time today telling us this idea. We will let you get back to the trains. Yesterday was it was planes, trains tomorrow, automobiles no doubt.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s right, it’s great to be here, thanks for your time.