Coun­cils ask Mor­ri­son to pay for cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies on 26 Jan­uary

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Luke Hen­riques-Gomes

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has been told to put its money where its mouth is on the ques­tion of Aus­tralia Day. Coun­cils are ar­gu­ing they should be fi­nan­cially com­pen­sated if they are forced to hold cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies on 26 Jan­uary.

A day be­fore he launched a re­brand of his Coali­tion gov­ern­ment, Scott Mor­ri­son on Sun­day said he was “prime min­is­ter for stan­dards” as he spruiked a new rule that would force coun­cils to over­see the cer­e­monies on Aus­tralia Day. The gov­ern­ment will also ban “board shorts” and “thongs” from those events.

Asked for more de­tails about the new dress code, in­clud­ing whether open-toed shoes or other shorts would be per­mit­ted, a spokes­woman for the im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter, David Cole­man, would only say “the at­tire of at­ten­dees should re­flect the sig­nif­i­cance of the oc­ca­sion”.

• Sign up to re­ceive the top sto­ries from Guardian Aus­tralia ev­ery morn­ing

“Con­fer­ees may con­tinue to wear na­tional or cul­tural dress,” she said.

It is un­der­stood that in­di­vid­ual coun­cils will de­ter­mine the dress code, which would come into ef­fect along with the other new reg­u­la­tions next year.

Un­der the ex­ist­ing cit­i­zen­ship code, coun­cils may choose to hold cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies, pro­vided they com­ply with a set of guide­lines out­lined by the gov­ern­ment.

Changes to those guide­lines would mean coun­cils that did not hold a cer­e­mony on 26 Jan­uary, and an­other on Cit­i­zen­ship Day (17 Septem­ber), would be stripped of their pow­ers to con­fer cit­i­zen­ship, as has al­ready oc­curred to the Mel­bourne coun­cils of Dare­bin and Yarra.

Greg Con­key, the mayor of Wagga Wagga, which holds 10 cer­e­monies a year, said the Aus­tralia Day event was a “high­light” but the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion was wrong.

Con­key es­ti­mated the cer­e­monies cost Wagga Wagga be­tween $10,000

and $15,000 in to­tal a year.

“How can they make it com­pul­sory with­out pro­vid­ing some kind of com­pen­sa­tion?” he said.

Other coun­cils are al­ready ex­am­in­ing ways to hold the cer­e­monies on 26 Jan­uary amid mount­ing pres­sure from crit­ics who want the date changed be­cause it marks the start of vi­o­lent Bri­tish colo­nial rule.

The City of Port Phillip, which en­com­passes the Mel­bourne sub­urb of St Kilda, will this year vote on a pro­posal to hold a “morn­ing of mourn­ing” cer­e­mony on Aus­tralia Day.

The mayor, Dick Gross, who pro­posed the idea, said it would be held sep­a­rately be­fore the coun­cil’s cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mony and other 26 Jan­uary events.

He said he be­lieved it was good to hold the cer­e­monies on Aus­tralia Day, but told Guardian Aus­tralia the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion was “un­demo­cratic”.

The mayor of South Aus­tralia’s Tumby Bay dis­trict coun­cil, Sam Telfer, said for some coun­cils, hold­ing the events on a pub­lic hol­i­day was “cost­pro­hibitive”. “This ap­pears to be a solution to a non-ex­is­tent prob­lem in SA, and would in­evitably cre­ate ad­di­tional costs which lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties should not be ex­pected to cover,” said Telfer, who is also the state branch pres­i­dent of the Aus­tralian Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion.

He said re­gional coun­cils like his own did not have “the quan­tity of ap­pli­ca­tions for cit­i­zen­ship, and there­fore may not be able to hold a cer­e­mony on this day”.

Keith Camp­bell, the mayor of South Bur­nett in Queens­land, said he backed the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to make the cer­e­monies com­pul­sory next year.

“I’ve not heard any­thing to sug­gest that the whole of the com­mu­nity would not sup­port that ac­tion as well,” he said.

Camp­bell said two or three peo­ple would take part in a cer­e­mony in Kin­garoy this Aus­tralia Day.

Else­where, thou­sands are ex­pected to gather for In­va­sion Day and Sur­vival Day events across the coun­try.

In a state­ment, David O’Lough­lin, the pres­i­dent of the Aus­tralian Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, also said the de­ci­sion would heap more costs on coun­cils.

“If the fed­eral gov­ern­ment had both­ered to con­sult with us in the de­vel­op­ment of this pol­icy, they would have heard that in some lo­ca­tions, it’s sim­ply too hot for coun­cils to hold cer­e­monies dur­ing the day, so they do it the evening be­fore, just as the fed­eral gov­ern­ment does with its Aus­tralian of the year cer­e­mony.”

The gov­ern­ment says it will con­sider feed­back from coun­cils be­fore in­tro­duc­ing the code.

Pho­to­graph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

An Aus­tralia Day cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mony in Can­berra. The Coali­tion has told all coun­cilsthey must hold cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies on 26 Jan­uary or lose their right to con­duct them.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.