Q&A: Lambie in pitched battle over 'racist' Australia Day

SINGER-songwriter Dan Sultan and Tasmania Senator Jacqui Lambie have clashed in a fiery on-air exchange over "racist" Australia Day.

The pair appeared Monday night alongside Attorney-General George Brandis, Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke and Sydney Councillor Christine Foster on the ABC's live Q & A panel.

Sultan and Lambie butted heads in response to an audience question about whether the national day of celebration on January 26 should be changed because it marks the "genocide" of many Aboriginal Australians. Many indigenous people view the date as "invasion day".

Sultan said he liked the idea of an "Australia Day", but that it was "disrespectful" and "racist" to celebrate it on January 26.

"It's a day of mourning for us," he said. "For people not to recognise that or to say that it doesn't matter ...is disrespectful and I think it's racist and we need to have a bit of a look at ourselves.

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We should focus on closing the gap instead of squabbling about a date.


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"We should recognise the 26th of January for what it is - which is a day that started the ongoing genocide of our people."

"It's important that a day called Australia Day includes all Australians, the fact of the matter is that it doesn't include us, it excludes us (and) anyone who has any type of sympathy or empathy towards our story, which is a hell of a lot of Australians."

Lambie told viewers she had "no intentions of backing a move for Australia Day".

"I'm worried about our culture, our ethics, our grassroots, our moral upbringing and all the rest because I just - I think we're starting to lose that," she said.

"I think it's becoming wafer thin. It scares the hell out of me. I'll be brutally honest, I don't know what my kids are going to face in 20, 25 years, when they get to my age."

An unwavering Sultan didn't miss a beat: "Heaven forbid you lose your culture," he quipped, prompting a round of applause from the audience.

But Lambie stayed focused and continued in a louder, raised voice.

"It's like Vietnam Veteran's Day, Borneo Day, enough. We should celebrate this once. If we lost men and women at war, we've got one day, Anzac Day," she said.

"Australia Day is the same, everybody needs to put their differences aside. You know what - someone else will pick another day and then someone, there'll be a minority group say, 'we don't like that date'. When is this going to stop?"

Jacqui Lambie and Dan Sultan on the ABC’s Q&A panel.
Jacqui Lambie and Dan Sultan on the ABC’s Q&A panel. ABC

Lambie told Sultan she didn't agree with him about changing the date because it was "the way it goes".

"(If) it does not suit a minority the rest of us should not have to pay the price," she said.

Host Tony Jones was forced to interrupt the pair from "talking over each other".

The debate came after several monuments across Sydney's CBD, including a statue of Captain James Cook, were defaced with slogans including "change the date" and "no pride in genocide" in the early hours of Saturday morning

The vandalism follows growing public debate about the way the European arrival in Australia is commemorated. The issue gained momentum earlier this year after a pair of Victorian councils voted not to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26 and the Federal Government responded by stripping them of their right to host citizenship ceremonies at any time.

On Monday night, Lambie said the most important issue was closing the gap between indigenous and non indigenous Australians.

"There are some horrific things that are going on right now, the elders need to stand up and take responsibilities ... in those communities and things need to be done," she said.

"(Reconciliation) is going to make us feel great for a day. It's not going to close the gap.

"It will be a healing for 24 hours but we're still going to be in the same situation and all the bad stuff going on with those kids out there, the abuse, everything is still going to continue. It's not going to stop. That gap is killing us."

Attorney General George Brandis and singer songwriter Dan Sultan didn't see eye to eye.

Monday night's Q&A panel on the ABC.
That was something the pair could agree on.

"There's still Aboriginal deaths in custody at an alarming rate," Sultan said.

"There's still an alarming rate of suicide amongst teenagers in Aboriginal communities, it's an on-going genocide. For people to say it was in the past, it's not. It's here now, today."

By the end of the program, Sultan was singing Lambie's praises.

"I have a lot of respect for Jacqui Lambie, although I don't always agree with you, I think she's great, the way she goes about it," he said.

"Most of the time she has a very good heart and wears it on her sleeve."


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