Daniel Wild Detailing IPA Research That Shows Strong Majority Of Australians Support January 26 As Australia Day On 6PR – 15 January 2024

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15 January 2024
Daniel Wild Detailing IPA Research That Shows Strong Majority Of Australians Support January 26 As Australia Day On 6PR – 15 January 2024 - Featured image

The Institute of Public Affairs’ Daniel Wild joined Gary Adshead on 6PR Mornings to discuss IPA research that shows strong majority of Australians support January 26 as Australia Day.

All media posted onto the IPA website are directly related to the promotion and dissemination of IPA research.

Below is a transcript of the interview.


Gary Adshead:

According to the Institute of Public Affairs, it surveyed 1,000 Australians, and it says in the results that 63% of people agreed with the following statement: Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26th. Let’s get into that, the issues and the findings around that survey. Daniel Wild is the Deputy Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs, and he joins me now. Good day, Daniel.

Daniel Wild:

Good day. Nice to be with you.

Gary Adshead:

Yeah. Well, okay, let’s cut to the chase here. Every year we are having this debate, and a short while ago I was doing a crossover with our breakfast presenters, Steve Mills and Karl Langdon. Karl Langdon said… and Karl’s a fairly forthright chap, and I would’ve thought that he’s the sort of guy that would enjoy Australia Day. He said, “If it’s just becoming an issue where we argue every January 26th, then maybe we should just change the date.” Your survey doesn’t seem to support that idea.

Daniel Wild:

No, it doesn’t, Gary, and I think you summarised the issues very nicely in your analysis at the top of our chapters then. When you look at the polling that we’ve put out, 64% of Western Australians back Australia Day on the 26th of January, and fewer than one in six disagree. Just 14% don’t want it on that day, and the rest don’t have an opinion. So yes, we’re having this debate, as we do every year, but it’s clear that it’s being driven not by mainstream Australians. It’s being driven by a small group of noisy minority activists and, as you rightly identify, big corporates like Woolworths and others who seek to divide us and demean us and don’t want Australians to celebrate our national day.

But we know that the vast majority of Australians understand that the 26th of January is more than just plastic plates and bucket hats. It’s about reflecting on our nation and our values, that millions of migrants have come here over the journey to get away from racial division and sectarian conflict and poverty, to have the freedom and democracy and prosperity we have in our nation. And of course we should celebrate that. And the 26th of January is the right day on which to do it.

Gary Adshead:

Are you able to give us an idea, though, of whether or not your poll was talking to people who may be, let’s say generationally, more supportive of Australia Day in the tradition of it, as opposed to younger people who might be saying, “No, no, clearly we need to change the date?”

Daniel Wild:

It was not slanted based on oversampling certain demographics. It was nationally-represented, but what we did do is break it down by different age groups. And what might not come as a surprise is that the only cohort to not have above 60% supporting Australia Day was those aged 18 to 24, where 42% back the day, 30% disagree, and the rest don’t have an opinion yet. So look, that’s a concerning aspect of our poll, and I think it’s a reflection of our education institutions, schools and universities in particular, that often provide a very imbalanced assessment of our history and our cultures so that many young Australians coming out of school and university don’t appreciate our nation or have a proper understanding of our history and our way of life.

What’s also interesting is that once you get to the years 25 plus, that immediately goes up to 60% plus. So I take that to mean that once Australians get out of formal education and into the real world, they develop an appreciation of our nation and our way of life and their enthusiasm for our National Day expands and grows, which I think is an encouraging sign.

Gary Adshead:

So do you get any impression then from your survey about where our pride in Australia is at the moment? Because I am assuming that those who don’t even agree with the idea that we would have Australia Day on the 26th of January and what comes with that aren’t that proud to be Australian.

Daniel Wild:

Well, it’s interesting. We asked the question. Australia has a history to be proud of, do you agree or disagree? Now, across the population, 70% agreed with that, 15% disagreed, and the rest weren’t too sure. Even among young people, that’s about 50% that said that we have a history to be proud of. So the support for Australia Day is slightly less than those who believe that we should be proud of our history, but I think it’s a very strong result and also something to be encouraging.

I think what’s happened over the years, Gary, is that the debate about Australia Day has become divisive. We see a lot of people opting out of the debate, where they say, “Look, I don’t want to give you my opinion because I don’t want to appear to be divisive.” But we know, as always, with a lot of these issues, we saw it with the voice to Parliament, where about 2/3 of Western Australians voted no, is that the silent majority of Australians believe we’re a good country. They want to celebrate our National Day. And I reckon they’ve just had an absolute gut full of this debate happening every year, and we should just end it and get on with the day.

Gary Adshead:

Okay. There’s a couple of things there. We saw the referendum in terms of the voice of Parliament, and that was emphatically no, but with this one here you’ve got local government by local government that seem to be triggering the discussion because they’re changing the actual ceremony days that they have for citizenship. Our lord mayor over here in Perth, he’s made very strong statements that this debate should be led by our prime minister because it is a national day, and yet the PM seems to be more than happy for local governments to make up their own decisions around this. What do you say to that?

Daniel Wild:

I share that view. It’s our National Day, and I think the federal government and the prime minister have an obligation to ensure that Australians have the opportunity to celebrate that day, and that those citizenship ceremonies should take place on the 26th of January. You’ve got hundreds of thousands of migrants coming here every year. They look forward, overwhelmingly, to the opportunity to have their ceremony, and for it to be mired in this debate, this very jaundice, inward-looking debate I think diminishes their experience and diminishes their welcome to be citizens of our nation.

So I think that Basil is right to identify that as a national issue. On the issue of the councils, I think it’s just another example of how they’re out of touch with their constituents and rate-payers. I think most people would expect them to be focused on roads, rates, and rubbish. Everyone’s rates are going up. I think the quality of the amenities and services are typically going down. And a lot of people will look at these political interventions by councils and say, “Well, why don’t you focus on the local issues that matter to me rather than moralising, just like Woolworths is?”

Gary Adshead:

So despite you obviously having a view that, if push comes to shove, the majority of Australians are comfortable with Australia Day and would like it to remain, you also go on to point out that, unless people fight back, they will lose the day. Is that because what you would describe as a noisy minority will win out in the end?

Daniel Wild:

Yes, that’s certainly possible. I think it’s reflected in fatigue, that people want to tap out of it and just go, “Oh well, we’ll give them what they want.” But we can’t allow that to happen. It’s important that we remind Australians in a balanced way. Not in a in-your-face way, but in a balanced way, of what a great nation we are. And that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss and reflect on our blemishes of our history. All nations are imperfect, including ours, but we should celebrate everything that we’ve done as a nation. The fact that, as I say, millions of migrants have come here to have a better life. But if we don’t make the argument, if we don’t teach our children why our nation is the nation it is today, then in years to come we will lose what we have.

Gary Adshead:

Now, heaven forbid, because you talked about fatigue there, but let’s say that there was a decision to make this… and I don’t know whether lawfully, under the Constitution, you would have to do this, but make the idea of changing January 26th to another date a referendum question at the 2025 Election. Which way do you reckon it will go?

Daniel Wild:

I think Australians would back in the 26th of January. I think it’d be a fairly open and shut case based on the current situation, although I’d never taken anything for granted, of course. I think that idea has been put forward by some members of Parliament. Henry Pike, who’s a member of parliament from Queensland, has put that idea forward, and I think it’s a good one. Look, if we want to change the date, then let’s have a vote. But until such time, I think we just get along together. And after having the voice to Parliament debate, I think Australians just want to be unified rather than divided on these cultural issues. So I don’t mind the idea of having a vote on it, a plaintiff-side or a referendum, to put it to bed once and for all.

Gary Adshead:

Yeah. Well, I reckon that might be the best way to move forward. I do appreciate you joining us today, Daniel.

Daniel Wild:

My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

This transcript from 6PR with Gary Adshead from 15 January 2024 has been edited for clarity.

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