Aussie PM criticised for saying Jan 26 'wasn't a flash day for those on first fleet vessels either'

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Jan 21, 2021, 11.16 PM(IST)

Scott Morrison Photograph:( Reuters )

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Australia Day is held annually on January 26, the anniversary of the day in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip guided a fleet of 11 British ships carrying convicts into Botany Bay in what is now Sydney.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is being criticised after he slammed a Cricket Australia initiative to promote inclusivity on January 26, and claimed the date in 1788 “wasn’t a particularly flash day” for those on the first fleet.

Australia Day is held annually on January 26, the anniversary of the day in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip guided a fleet of 11 British ships carrying convicts into Botany Bay in what is now Sydney.

The game’s governing body on Wednesday announced it would drop references to “Australia Day” in promotional material for Big Bash League games in the lead-up to the public holiday considered by some as a day of mourning.

The day, referred to as “Invasion Day” by many Indigenous people and others, will instead be referred to simply as January 26.

But Morrison on Thursday said he disagreed with the push and said January 26 was “all about acknowledging how far we’ve come”.

“When those 12 ships turned up in Sydney, all those years ago, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either,” he said at a press conference in Queensland. 

“What that day, to this, demonstrates is how far we’ve come as a country and I think that’s why it’s important to mark it in that way.”

Kevin Rudd, a former prime minister, to this end, branded him “gutless”.

“So afraid of offending the far right, he lets them spread dangerous coronavirus myths. He won’t criticise Trump’s incitement of insurrection against US Congress. Instead he bashes Cricket Australia for honouring the first Australians,” Rudd tweeted.

Sarah Hanson-Young, the senator for South Australia, told Morrison to “read the room” while the prominent barrister, Julian Burnside QC, called the nation’s prime minister a “numbskull”. “What bit doesn’t he understand?” Burnside tweeted.

Morrison had earlier told Cricket Australia there should be “a bit more focus on cricket, and a little less focus on politics”.

Earlier this year, Morrison also weighed in on an NRL plan to scrap the national anthem from the State of Origin series – after the prime minister spoke with Australian Rugby League Commission chair Peter V’landys, the decision was reversed.

Morrison’s government has since changed the words of the anthem, removing a reference to the country being “young and free".

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