Scott Mor­ri­son says he is 'prime min­is­ter for stan­dards' af­ter un­veil­ing Aus­tralia Day plan

The Guardian Australia - - Front Page - Naa­man Zhou

Scott Mor­ri­son has re­buffed Bill Shorten’s claim the gov­ern­ment is politi­cis­ing Aus­tralia Day with a plan to force coun­cils to have cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies on 26 Jan­uary from 2020.

The prime min­is­ter hit back at the La­bor leader for not im­me­di­ately back­ing the move, which he says is com­mon sense.

“I think Bill Shorten is hav­ing a copout on this,” Mor­ri­son told re­porters in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory.

Forc­ing coun­cils to have the cer­e­monies on Aus­tralia Day comes af­ter a hand­ful of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties voted to move cit­i­zen­ship events out of re­spect for Aus­tralia’s Indige­nous peo­ple.

“If some coun­cils, as we’ve seen, want to play games, well, you don’t have to run cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies, other ar­range­ments will be made,” the prime min­is­ter said. “But we will not un­der­mine Aus­tralia’s na­tional day.”

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The Mor­ri­son gov­ern­ment’s change to the Aus­tralian Cit­i­zen­ship Cer­e­monies Code means coun­cils will be forced to hold a cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mony on 26 Jan­uary, an­other on 17 Septem­ber, and in­sti­tute a dress code that bans thongs and board shorts.

“I’m a prime min­is­ter for stan­dards,” Mor­ri­son said.

Shorten did not rule out sup­port­ing the plan but guar­an­teed he would keep the pub­lic hol­i­day if in gov­ern­ment.

“You sort of know when Aus­tralia Day’s com­ing up don’t you, when a cou­ple of weeks be­fore we get the an­nual con­ser­va­tive out­ing to put pol­i­tics into Aus­tralia Day,” Shorten told re­porters in Mel­bourne on Sun­day. “It’s what the con­ser­va­tives do to keep their base happy.”

Speak­ing to the Sun­day Tele­graph, Mor­ri­son said it would help “pro­tect our na­tional day and en­sure it is re­spected”, in the face of mount­ing calls to change the date of Aus­tralia Day.

The im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter, David Cole­man, said it meant “coun­cils will no longer be able to say ‘no’ to Aus­tralia Day”.

“We be­lieve that all coun­cils should say ‘yes’ to Aus­tralia Day,” he told re­porters in Queens­land.

He said coun­cils that did not com­ply would have their cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies re­voked. He added that the dress code would al­low peo­ple to wear cul­tural or na­tional dress.

“To be­come an Aus­tralian on Aus­tralia Day is in­cred­i­bly spe­cial,” he said. “Our gov­ern­ment be­lieves all new cit­i­zens should have the op­por­tu­nity to be­come an Aus­tralian on Aus­tralia Day.

“At the mo­ment, that’s not the case. More than 100 coun­cils around Aus­tralia don’t hold cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies on Aus­tralia Day … Why should coun­cils be able to stop some­one who is about to be­come an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen from the great hon­our of be­com­ing a cit­i­zen on Aus­tralia Day?”

Pre­vi­ously, coun­cils were un­der no obli­ga­tion to hold cer­e­monies on any set days. The change will af­fect all 537 coun­cils from 2020.

In 2017, two coun­cils in Mel­bourne voted to move their cer­e­monies away from 26 Jan­uary, due to its as­so­ci­a­tion with the start of Euro­pean coloni­sa­tion. An­other coun­cil, More­land, de­cided to keep a cer­e­mony on 26 Jan­uary but to re­move the ref­er­ence to “Aus­tralia Day” out of re­spect for Indige­nous Aus­tralians.

The other coun­cils, Yarra and Dare­bin, had their right to hold cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies taken away by the then Turn­bull gov­ern­ment.

On Sun­day, Mor­ri­son said mak­ing the cer­e­monies com­pul­sory would stop lo­cal coun­cils “play­ing pol­i­tics with Aus­tralia Day”.

But the pres­i­dent of the Aus­tralian Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, David O’Lough­lin, said there had been “zero con­sul­ta­tion” with coun­cils, and re­jected the idea.

“About 25% of coun­cils hold cer­e­monies on a dif­fer­ent day for very sen­si­ble rea­sons,” he told Chan­nel Seven. “If it’s too hot on the day, they hold it the evening be­fore. Or they have it the week be­fore, so ev­ery­one on Aus­tralia Day al­ready has their Aus­tralian cit­i­zen­ship.

“The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s strong fo­cus on draw­ing a link be­tween Aus­tralia Day and cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies is bizarre.

“The gov­ern­ment doesn’t even an­nounce the Aus­tralian of the Year on Aus­tralia Day, so it’s very cu­ri­ous.”

O’Lough­lin said the as­so­ci­a­tion of cit­i­zen­ship with 26 Jan­uary was a re­cent in­ven­tion.

“Most coun­cils would do sev­eral cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies a year,” he said. “Not just this one. My own coun­cil does four, and I know coun­cils that do them monthly.”

In 2017, Colin Hunter, a Wu­rund­jeri

man and City of Yarra Abo­rig­i­nal li­ai­son of­fi­cer, told Guardian Aus­tralia it was ap­pro­pri­ate for lo­cal coun­cils to lead the move­ment to change the date of Aus­tralia Day.

“Peo­ple say lo­cal gov­ern­ment is about bins and rates but it’s also about the civic par­tic­i­pa­tion of your lo­cal com­mu­nity,” he said.

On Sun­day, O’Lough­lin agreed, say­ing coun­cils like Yarra, Dare­bin and More­land were free to re­flect their com­mu­ni­ties’ in­ter­ests by shift­ing cer­e­monies away from 26 Jan­uary.

“If their com­mu­ni­ties want them to ad­vo­cate for some­thing, I would ex­pect their com­mu­ni­ties would want their coun­cils to fol­low that lead.”

Aus­tralia Day has only been con­sis­tency cel­e­brated on 26 Jan­uary since 1988, ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralia Day Na­tional Coun­cil. It was pre­vi­ously cel­e­brated on 30 July, 28 July and a va­ri­ety of other dates.

26 Jan­uary marks the day the first fleet ar­rived in Syd­ney Cove in 1788, and has been re­ferred to as In­va­sion Day or Sur­vival Day by Indige­nous Aus­tralians for years.

In 1938, 26 Jan­uary was marked by the Na­tional Day of Mourn­ing, protest­ing the an­niver­sary of 150 years of coloni­sa­tion.

The New South Wales premier, Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian, said 26 Jan­uary was the nat­u­ral day for cer­e­monies to be staged.

But the act­ing Vic­to­rian premier, James Mer­lino, was more scep­ti­cal.

“I think this is more to do with the fed­eral elec­tion than with the Mor­ri­son gov­ern­ment re­spect­ing our coun­try,” he said.

Pho­to­graph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

The Mor­ri­son gov­ern­ment is mak­ing it com­pul­sory for lo­cal coun­cils to hold a cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mony on 26 Jan­uary and is in­sti­tut­ing a dress code.

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