Scott Morrison hits out at Cricket Australia for scrapping Australia Day references

Giovanni Torre
·3-min read
Scott Morrison condemned the cricket body's decision, referring to it as 'ordinary' - Lukas Coch/AAP
Scott Morrison condemned the cricket body's decision, referring to it as 'ordinary' - Lukas Coch/AAP

The Australian prime minister has criticised the country's national cricket board for removing the words "Australia Day" from its promotion of league events taking place around the controversial January 26 holiday.

Cricket Australia made the decision about promotional materials for its domestic T20 league after consultation with its National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cricket Advisory Committee (Natsicac) on how to handle the date.

Australia Day has been called "invasion day" by many as it marks the beginning of European settlement in Australia and the dispossession of the indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Scott Morrison – who was heavily criticised for refusing to condemn two of his MPs for spreading false information about coronavirus on the grounds of "free speech" – condemned the cricket body's decision. He referred to it as "ordinary", a word often used in Australian English to describe something as poor or sub-par.

Mel Jones, who co-chairs Natsicac, said she supported the decision not to make any reference to Australia Day, adding: "It's recognition that it's a really hurtful day for many. We've got five indigenous players playing those games and a lot of indigenous fans that come to the cricket. We just want to make this space as safe and inclusive as possible."

Ms Jones, a retired Australian Test and one-day international player, said Cricket Australia would be prepared to discuss its decision with Mr Morrison and said: "Cricket Australia is very comfortable with where it's at."

Three clubs in the T20 competition will wear indigenous-inspired uniforms in matches on January 23, 25 and 26.

Renewed debate around celebrating January 26 and the arrival of Europeans escalated on Thursday with the Australian PM suggesting that those on board the First Fleet that arrived in 1778 also suffered.

"On Australia Day, it's all about acknowledging how far we've come," he told local media on Thursday. "You know, when those 12 ships turned up in Sydney, it wasn't a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either."

Mr Morrison is a descendant of William Roberts, who came to Australia as a convict in the First Fleet.

Lidia Thorpe, an indigenous businesswoman and the first Aboriginal senator from Victoria, representing the Australian Greens, said it was disrespectful and offensive to compare the experience of First Nations people with those aboard the First Fleet ships.

"The Prime Minister has an opportunity to unite this country, not to divide it. And that starts with telling the truth about this country's history," she said.

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described Mr Morrison as "gutless", saying: "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," Mr Rudd wrote on social media.