Canberra's Australia Day celebrations have attracted tens of thousands of attendees and millions of viewers in every year since 2004. So I was shocked when the National Australia Day Council cancelled the public Australia Day concert and decided to move the award ceremony indoors to the Great Hall of Parliament House. At the moment the concert is held outside Parliament House every year, and the award ceremony is also held outside Parliament House and is open to everyone.
I was shocked not just by what the decision meant but also by what it would represent, because Canberra is more than this Parliament House. It is where the nation tells the story of its history, it is where the nation sets its course, and it is where we grieve for those lives lost in defence of this great nation, a great nation represented and served by a great city.
I understand that the National Day Australia Council has promised to work with the ACT government to stage a major public event in Canberra for Australia Day, but it is not clear what form this event will take. So I have written to the Prime Minister to seek clarification, because denying Canberrans admission to the central Australia Day function is akin to denying all Australians a place at the celebrations thrown in their honour. An invite-only Australia Day celebration is un-Australian.