Member of the Legislative Council, Parliamentary Secretary for Energy and the Arts and member of The Nationals party Ben Franklin, at the Byron Shire 2021 Australia Day Awards.
Member of the Legislative Council, Parliamentary Secretary for Energy and the Arts and member of The Nationals party Ben Franklin, at the Byron Shire 2021 Australia Day Awards.

Nationals MLC open to changing the date of Australia Day

A Nationals MLC from the NSW North Coast has supported the idea of changing the day of Australia Day away from January 26.

NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Energy and the Arts Ben Franklin said he supported the idea during a speech at the Byron Shire 2021 Australia Day Awards, celebrated on January 25.

Speaking to nominees and local authorities, the member for The Nationals said the debate on when to celebrate the event is an important community debate.

"Our council, and particularly our mayor (Greens councillor Simon Richardson), has been leading the debate and shining a light on the profound damage held by First Nations peoples," he said.

Mr Franklin proceeded to read a post he saw on social media on that day, explaining that is someone is not feeling like celebrating a date, they should not be forced to.

"I welcome this debate, and I welcome it because these things aren't static, they are not cast in stone," he said.

"This year we already change our national anthem, it was a small word, but it was profound change.

"When I was in primary school we sang 'Australia's sons let us rejoice …' leaving outside half the population, and that was changed.

"And before that we sang God Save the Queen.

"We changed our currency, we changed our flag, surely we can have a discussion about changing our national day, without the extremes of each side of the debate calling people un-Australian."

Mr Franklin went to highlight the small number of people dead in Australia from COVID, versus the thousands lost in countries like the USA and the UK. He said that was because Australians are happy to pay a small sacrifice for a positive collective outcome.

"Our people truly understand the value of civility and decency," he said.

"Sometimes it can be a little bit challenging being a member of the National Party and living in this progressive community, but I find that people here will bypass those differences and happily work together with those who just want what's best for the community."

The awards ceremony have been held in the Byron Shire near but not on January 26 since 2018.

Byron Shire does offer citizenship ceremonies on January 26 as all other councils around the country.