Several Liberal MPs have pushed to change the Australian government’s position, including Trent Zimmerman – whose electorate contains a large Armenian population in the suburb of Willoughby – John Alexander, Stuart Robert, Tim Wilson, Craig Kelly and Eric Abetz.
During a 2011 speech to Parliament, Mr Morrison labelled the killing “genocide” and said it was “one of the greatest crimes against humanity” to ever take place. However, his statement marking the 104th anniversary on Wednesday does not repeat either characterisation.
Haig Kayserian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of Australia, will refuse to read Mr Morrison’s statement at Wednesday night’s National Armenian Genocide Commemoration Evening.
“His backflip is downright offensive to the 50,000-plus Armenian-Australian community, who are mainly descendants of survivors of the Armenian genocide,” Mr Kayserian said, arguing Mr Morrison was “equating it to a car accident”.
However, the official position of the Australian government – affirmed in evidence to the Senate last year by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – is against labelling the atrocity a genocide. Armenian community leaders regularly condemn the government’s position without success.
Ms Berejiklian, whose own family were victims of the genocide, is due to deliver a keynote speech at the event that will again use the term “genocide”. Last year she told the Sydney Institute: “All four of my grandparents were orphaned and witnessed untold atrocities.”
It is a sensitive time for relations between Australia and Turkey following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s shocking remarks about sending visiting Australians home in coffins “like your grandfathers” – referring to ANZAC soldiers – if they disrespected Islam.
Mr Morrison stridently repudiated those comments as unacceptable and warned “all options are now on the table”. President Erdogan later said his remarks were taken out of context.