I was on the Paul Murray show this week and Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon put forward the view that we should move the date of Australia Day because there are enough people upset about the current date.
How many people are enough? A poll out this week shows that just 28 per cent of Australians think the date should be moved. So why should a minority of Australians get to dictate when our national day is?
The reason given is that even though this group is in the minority they are upset enough that this should overturn the views of the larger group of Australians who want to continue the tradition. This would in effect give a greater weight to the views of some Australians over others. That is not the right way to make decisions in a democracy. All Australians should have their views given equal weight.
To do otherwise would be to replace our democracy with a tyranny of the noisy few who always like to complain about something. A Karenocracy if you will. Under a Karenocracy anyone who takes offence at the slightest provocation would be exalted. The Aussie larrikin would be dead.
Many of those wanting to change the date of Australia Day simply do not believe in Australia at all. Why should those who hate Australia get to decide when Australia Day is?
The vast majority of Australians take a quieter and simpler view of these things. Australia is a great country but we are a laid back one. We do not flaunt our nationalism apart from a few flags here and there. Yet we have a quiet pride in our nation and do not see the need for the radical changes others are proposing.
There are few countries in the world that are more free, more prosperous or more egalitarian. We are not perfect but nor is any country, and we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Australia does not have a perfect history but again nor does any other country. And it is reasonable to look at our history from all sides. Great inequity was done to Aboriginal people but then, as the Prime Minister remarked this week, great inequity was done to many convicts too. Many convicts were sent to Australia simply for involvement in a trade union as workers in 19th century England tried to improve their livelihoods following the devastating impact of industrialisation.
And not all British rulers were terrible people either. Captain Arthur Phillip, whose arrival we celebrate on Australia Day, showed respect to Aboriginal people, including when he refused to retaliate after being personally speared in the shoulder by some Aboriginals. We have a rich history with rough edges but many tales of heroism and gallantry too. We should teach our children all sides of this history not simply focus on a “black armband“ version.
But most of all we are a country where most can enjoy a barbecue in their own home with a family. We need to do more to help those that do not have that luxury. Yet we will never achieve that outcome if we do not take time to reflect how far our nation has come in the past 233 years. We should celebrate the good we achieve because by remembering that we can achieve more good in the future.