PM SAYS RE­SPECT OUR DAY

Coun­cils told cit­i­zen­ships are a must on Jan­uary 26

The Sunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - AN­NIKA SMETHURST

LO­CAL coun­cils will be forced to hold ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­monies on Aus­tralia Day, head­ing off at­tempts to un­der­mine its sig­nif­i­cance.

The Mor­ri­son Gov­ern­ment is mak­ing good on its threat to strip rogue coun­cils of the right to hold such events if they shun Aus­tralia Day.

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son said the Gov­ern­ment would “pro­tect our national day and en­sure it is re­spected”. To re­in­force that re­spect, new cit­i­zens must now abide by a dress code at the cer­e­monies.

“We be­lieve all coun­cils who are granted the priv­i­lege of con­duct­ing ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­monies should be re­quired to con­duct a ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­mony on Aus­tralia Day,” the PM said.

It comes as the WA Greens urged peo­ple to at­tend an In­va­sion Day rally in Perth.

EV­ERY council will be forced to hold ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­monies on Aus­tralia Day with the Mor­ri­son Gov­ern­ment mak­ing good on its threat to strip rogue coun­cils of their ci­ti­zen­ship rights.

In a move de­signed to fur­ther en­trench Jan­uary 26 as our national day, the Gov­ern­ment has re­vised the ci­ti­zen­ship code, mak­ing it com­pul­sory for all 537 coun­cils to hold ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­monies on Aus­tralia Day.

Gear­ing up for an elec­tion-year fight against the Greens-led cam­paign to change the date of Aus­tralia Day, Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son said the Gov­ern­ment would “pro­tect our national day and en­sure it is re­spected”. “We be­lieve all coun­cils who are granted the priv­i­lege of con­duct­ing ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­monies should be re­quired to con­duct a ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­mony on Aus­tralia Day,” he said.

The move comes as the WA Greens urged peo­ple to at­tend an In­va­sion Day rally in Perth’s For­rest Chase on Jan­uary 26.

In a Face­book video, Se­na­tor Rachel Siew­ert said the date marked more than 230 years of “on­go­ing dis­pos­ses­sion and op­pres­sion”. “The more peo­ple learn about our his­tory the more they un­der­stand Jan­uary 26th can’t be a day of cel­e­bra­tion while it con­tin­ues to hurt and ex­clude our first na­tions peo­ples,” she said.

Fre­man­tle is again shift­ing the date of its cel­e­bra­tions to Jan­uary 27 be­cause the council be­lieves Jan­uary 26 would never be “fully in­clu­sive”.

How­ever, its ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­mony will still be held on Aus­tralia Day after the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment made it clear mov­ing the date would not be sanc­tioned.

Last year more than 70 per cent of coun­cils held ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­monies on Jan­uary 26 de­spite there be­ing no spe­cific re­quire­ment to do so.

Two Melbourne coun­cils have already lost their right to hold ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­monies after vot­ing to scrap Aus­tralia Day cel­e­bra­tions in favour of an indige­nous-themed event.

But the Gov­ern­ment be­lieves more coun­cils are us­ing sneaky tac­tics such as blam­ing ex­treme weather or staff num­bers to avoid hold­ing cel­e­bra­tions on Jan­uary 26.

The Sun­day Times un­der­stands that a new code has been de­lib­er­ately de­signed to abol­ish loop­holes which al­low coun­cils to hold cer­e­monies on the days ei­ther side of Aus­tralia Day.

Mr Mor­ri­son said the re­vised Aus­tralian Ci­ti­zen­ship Cer­e­monies Code would “put an end to lo­cal coun­cils try­ing to skirt the rules or playing pol­i­tics with Aus­tralia Day”.

Coun­cils will also be forced to hold a second cer­e­mony on Aus­tralian Ci­ti­zen­ship Day on Septem­ber 17.

And, for the first time, new cit­i­zens will be bound by a strict dress code.

The PM said it was im­por­tant ci­ti­zen­ship cer­e­monies were re­spected.

“By all means put on the board­ies and thongs for the bar­be­cue af­ter­wards with your friends, but for the of­fi­cial cer­e­mony, it’s the right thing to do to show re­spect in how you dress for your new coun­try of ci­ti­zen­ship and your fel­low new cit­i­zens,” Mr Mor­ri­son said.

Re­gional and re­mote coun­cils that don’t have enough new cit­i­zens to jus­tify Jan­uary and Septem­ber cer­e­monies will be ex­empt from the tough new rules.

The re­vised code will be sent to coun­cils this week but won’t be in­tro­duced un­til Aus­tralia Day 2020.

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