Politics

Dan Sultan Schooled George Brandis And Jacqui Lambie Over Australia Day On ‘Q&A’

"Australia Day has always been racist."

Indigenous musician Dan Sultan has clashed with Attorney-General George Brandis and Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie over the ongoing debate about whether to change the date of Australia Day.

Sultan, Brandis and Lambie were all guests on last night’s episode of Q&A, which began with a question from an Indigenous audience member about whether Australia needed a national holiday.

A vocal supporter of the #ChangeTheDate campaign, Sultan said that while he supported the idea of a day called Australia Day, the current date needed to be recognised for what it was: “a day that started the ongoing genocide of our people”.

“I think it’s important that a day called Australia Day includes all Australians,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t include us, it excludes us. It excludes anyone who has any type of sympathy or empathy towards our story, which is a hell of a lot of Australians. To call it Australia Day is wrong.”

When host Tony Jones asked if Australia Day had “become a bit racist”, Sultran replied that “Australia Day has always been racist”.

“January 26 is a day of mourning for us, and for people not to recognise that, or to say it doesn’t matter that we feel that way is disrespectful,” said Sultan. “I think it is racist, and I think we need to have a bit of a look at ourselves.”

Brandis, for his part, backed the current date of Australia Day, insisting that it marked the day that “the Australia we now recognise, modern Australia, had its beginning.”

“Obviously there are blemishes in Australia’s history,” Brandis added. “There are aspects of our history about which we should be ashamed. And on Australia Day we both celebrate the good, inclusive nation that Australia has become, while at the same time reflecting on those parts of our history that are dark passages.”

But Sultan wasn’t buying it.

“These blemishes in the past, it was today, and it’s tomorrow,” he told Brandis. “There are still Aboriginal deaths in custody at an alarming rate, there’s still an alarming rate of suicides amongst teenagers in Aboriginal communities. It’s an ongoing genocide. For people to say it was in the past, it’s not. It’s here, now, today.”

“It’s a complicated issue, but also it’s very simple,” said Sultan. “Does it include everyone or doesn’t it? No it doesn’t. Don’t call it Australia Day.”

Later in the program, Sultan also found himself squaring off against Lambie, after she said that “everybody needs to put their differences aside”.

“I have no intentions of backing a move for Australia Day,” said the Tasmanian senator. “Australia Day is supposed to be about us all coming united. Doesn’t matter what religion you are, what colour skin you are, where you have come from. None of that should matter. It’s about being united as a country.”

Lambie went on to express her concern about “our culture, our ethics, our grassroots, our moral upbringing and all the rest.”

“Heaven forbid you lose your culture,” Sultan fired back.

The campaign to move the national holiday to a more inclusive date has gained significant momentum over the past 12 months. In January, Invasion Day rallies attracted tens of thousands of people around the country, while youth broadcaster triple j is currently considering moving the date of its annual Hottest 100 countdown.

A number of local councils have also voted to cancel their Australia Day celebrations and citizenship ceremonies, despite the objections of the federal government.