The prime minister has quickly walked away from a proposal for a new public holiday to celebrate indigenous culture.
The prime minister has quickly walked away from a proposal for a new public holiday to celebrate indigenous culture. Flickr

Morrison back-pedals on Indigenous Day

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is back-pedalling on his idea for a new national day to celebrate indigenous people and culture.

Mr Morrison floated the proposal this week and reignited debate on keeping the Australia Day public holiday on January 26.

"I haven't said it's a public holiday or not a public holiday, I haven't been so specific, I just think we should have a chat about it," he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

"I simply said that I think it would be good. You know, I was making the point that Australia Day is Australia Day, and that will be the top national holiday of the year.

"Nothing else is set out to replace it or provide an alternative to it, that is the national day where all Australians come together, first Australians to our most recent."

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP

Mr Morrison said he wanted to celebrate the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In arguing his point, the prime minister again pointed out the ACT holds a public holiday on May 28 to mark the anniversary of the successful 1967 indigenous referendum.

He also noted the annual NAIDOC week celebrations.

"Are we doing something which sufficiently acknowledges the great contribution and success of our indigenous peoples?"


"Some may say yes, some may say no, but I'll tell you one thing that's for certain, Australia Day ain't changing."

Mr Morrison has also flatly rejected introducing a constitutionally-enshrined representative body for indigenous people, as recommended by the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

"I don't support a third chamber," he said.

When pressed on the fact the voice to parliament would not be a third chamber, he replied: "People can dress it up any way they like, but I think two chambers is enough."

"The implications of how this works frankly lead to those same conclusions, and I share the view that I don't think that's a workable proposal," Mr Morrison said.

"But I also am passionate about the view, as I have been, about reconciliation and about working together to ensure we can bring Australians together around these issues.

"That doesn't mean we have to agree on every proposal, but every proposal will be treated with respect and we will find a way forward."

Business groups say establishing a new public holiday could cost the Australian economy $3 billion.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said people were "getting way ahead of themselves" in highlighting the potential economic impact.

"There's a lot of conversations to be had - obviously consultations with indigenous Australians, other stakeholders and indeed business - let's see where that takes us," he told Sky News.


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