28th of January: A Neutral Perspective

A lot of you may have heard about this one.

The City of Fremantle Council, after consulting both its constituents and the local, have decided, on their own accord, to move our national public holiday two days later, with a special event that has pretty much all the hallmarks- music, fireworks, and of course snags.

Victory was won. Glowing articles praising the courage of the locals, and the mayor, Mr. Brad Pettit. A sign of change and progress! People power has finally won! (A tiny, tiny slice) of Australia is finally moving forward!

Like all good things that happen in this country, don’t get too hasty.

Federal Government comes charging in suddenly like the Kool-Aid Man and spoils all the fun. To back it up, they were banned, or at least told to stop from doing one every thing that is also a hallmark of the day: inaugurating new Australians and presenting them with citizenships on the now modified date.

Classic governmental overreach is on full display here, good people. No doubt that this is the setup of a modern re-telling of a certain ancient Biblical story. The government is adamant and stubborn, albeit on principle and ‘tradition’- to send a message that is Australia Day should be non-partisan, and not be used as political football (the irony is lost here), but it seems rather petulant to focus on an incredibly local matter. This is the government that is far from living up to its free market principles (as their plans to subsidize the hypothetical Carmichael mine) and the notion of individual freedom. Currently, the Fremantle council are holding their guns on the issue. (UPDATE: They just got served the ban-hammer)

Writing this from a neutral standpoint and almost little emotional stake in the events, this episode almost feels like another part in a long running culture war that is pretty much going on with the rest of the world, although with a markedly (and unsavoury) local flavour, considering a less than savoury relationship, and an almost hard to defend (though not impossible) policy regarding those people from very far away lands. As soon as the date change was announced, armies in social media, formed ranks, one side moaning about how political correctness is ruining everyone’s fun and that they should get over it, whilst the Green-votin’ set saying how insensitive the traditional date to the traditional owners of this land. The changing of the date, is at best a gesture, and whilst gestures don’t help, but its the thought that counts. But gesturing and posturing of this sort will feel like sanctimonious virtue-signalling if it doesn’t lead to concrete and meaningful change (and concrete and meaningful change takes an awful long time).

On the upside, one could possibly enjoy two Australia Day parties, because a number of small business owners in the area, the most prominent of which is Cicerello’s (I.e the holy grail of fish and chips), are willing to chip in for their own private fireworks display albeit having to go to one after work, and that’s more than plenty of beer for one weekend, and maybe relive the Triple J Hottest 100 twice. Or grab as many games of backyard cricket. To fail in any of these duties is truly un-Australian.

(Picture: (L-R): Mayor Brad Pettit, Dr. Richard Walley OAM, Gina Williams, and John Butler)

Andrew Ryan