The producers at Triple J must have known they were going to get some serious heat for their decision to move their Hottest 100 Countdown to the day after Australia Day. The easier choice would have been to shirk the issue for a few more years until public support was absolutely overwhelming, but they made the tougher and better choice. Kudos to all involved.
And cue the outrage. The aggrieved commentary came from all angles including Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield (I'll come back to him later) and any number of critics, many of whom may not have actually cared much about the Hottest 100, and probably didn’t listen to it, up until now.
I have written previously about why the date of Australia Day should be changed so obviously I would support the move, but that is barely part of this debate. Triple J are not changing the date of Australia Day. Let's be clear about that. They made the commercial decision after a survey of listeners. No one is disadvantaged by the decision. Everyone can still listen to the Hottest 100, so there is little that opponents of the move can really say other than muttering darkly about political correctness (which a lot of them do so often it is basically white noise).
But seriously, if this somehow offends your sense of patriotism or Australian identity, you are confusing it for clichéd jingoism. There is nothing particularly patriotic about having a BBQ while listening the Hottest 100 on Australia Day (although it is a pleasant way to spend the day). I would argue that patriotism is as much about loving your country and its people, than its symbols. A corollary of this (and bigots are gonna hate me for this) is that those who seek to make Australia a fairer country for all have a greater claim to the word ‘patriotism’ than those who steadfastly deny recognition to the original Australians.
Mitch Fifield wasn’t shy about letting the public broadcaster know he wasn’t happy. It was certainly quite a contrast compared to his rather benign and tolerant manner towards the continuing failures of our NBN rollout, when I suspect a lot of Australians would probably prefer he worry about fixing that. Moreover, Triple J had followed Fifield’s own party’s example and put the decision out to a voluntary vote (albeit not one as expensive or drawn out as the shameful Marriage Equality plebiscite). One might have expected a Coalition minister to be a little more impressed by the will of the people, as it seems to have suddenly become very important to them this year.
I am being a little facetious of course. I understand why Fifield is upset, it just isn't really the fault of the radio station. Let’s not call Triple J’s decision entirely apolitical though. Even if it wasn’t done with political motivation in mind, it will have political consequences, over time further eroding resistance to the idea of moving the date of Australia Day itself. It is also a reminder to Fifield that his party is in trouble. Young voters are being pushed further and further from The Coalition after the party’s lurch to the conservative right. But with their economic mismanagement becoming increasingly obvious and their dog whistling tactics increasingly tired, the Coalition is struggling to reach voters in older demographics either. Not that they are in anyway undeserving of their unpopularity. If anything, it astounds that they still have the popularity they do after so much failure and deceit.
And being a conservative who constantly opposes change and progress must be hard too. Because although progress can seem painfully slow at times, it does happen and those who fight it for so long are often left in an invidious position when the doomsday predictions they made previously turn out to be exaggerations and falsehoods.