Malcolm Turnbull

'Disgraceful' Australia Day debate needs to stop: Warren Mundine

File: Indigenous adviser Warren Mundine (AAP) Source: AAP

Indigenous leader Warren Mundine has pleaded for an end to the 'disgraceful' debate over Australia Day, echoing the prime minister's worry that it is dividing the country.

While prominent businessman Warren Mundine supports changing the date from January 26, on Tuesday he lambasted the "vile abuse" being hurled by both sides of the argument.

"This all needs to stop," he told Sydney radio 2GB.

"It irritates me that every time it comes up, every year, you get the same old people coming out and arguing the same old cases, trying to divide the country when we should be actually trying to work together."

Mr Mundine, together with indigenous Alice Springs councillor Jacinta Price, argues Aboriginal people in remote communities have bigger issues to worry about.

He criticised the Greens for pursuing the move, and individual councils and councillors pushing to make a decision on what is a national issue.

"If you want to make us feel good, then let's start dealing with the unemployment, the health and the education of Aboriginal people rather than dealing with this issue."

Mr Mundine said the fact he was getting attacked, even though he supported the move, showed how "bizarre" the debate had become.

Ms Price has also been targeted on social media since she helped former federal Labor leader Mark Latham launch a "Save Australia Day" ad campaign.

  

Her mother, former NT politician Bess Price, labelled "disgusting" the online vitriol directed at her daughter for having a different opinion "to those who want to remain in their victimhood mentality".

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and a number of federal government ministers have again defended the date of the national holiday.

In a video posted to Twitter on Monday night, Mr Turnbull says a free country debates its history and does not deny it.

"I'm disappointed by those who want to change the date of Australia Day ... seeking to take a day that unites Australia and Australians and turn it into one that will divide us," Mr Turnbull said.

"We recognise that the history of European settlement here in Australia has been complex and tragic for indigenous Australians ... Australia Day is a day to come together."

Junior minister Alex Hawke acknowledges the day has different meanings for different people, but denies it has become divisive.

"It is a date I think that has overwhelming community support," the assistant minister told ABC radio on Tuesday.

"This is effectively a Greens' publicity stunt on repeat."

Greens leader Richard Di Natale says it's time Australia stops papering over an issue which has been divisive and painful for many for 200 years.

Neither Labor nor the government endorse a date change, which has been adopted by a number of local councils.

Indigenous leaders have been pushing for the change in recent years. January 26 marks the date the First Fleet landed in Sydney Cove in 1788 and the beginning of British colonisation.

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