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Byron Shire
June 16, 2021

Govt ‘coercing’ councils into Australia Day citizenship ceremonies

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Australian Local Government Association president David O’Loughlin

What began as a spat between prime minister Scott Morrison and Byron Mayor Simon Richardson has blown up into a national confrontation after the government said it will force all councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day.

In September last year, the PM threatened that Byron Council would be stripped of its power to hold citizenship ceremonies if it dared to follow through on its plan to move the event to a less controversial date.

But despite Byron Council backing down, the government has announced it plans to ram through changes to the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code without consulting the councils that would be required to implement it.

That action has been described as ‘heavy handed’ by the federal peak body of councils, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

ALGA also says the government has offered councils no financial compensation for the extra costs associated with running such an event on a public holiday.

President, Mayor David O’Loughlin*, said in a statement that ‘most councils hold more than one citizenship ceremony a year, some as often as monthly’.

‘The federal government’s strong focus on drawing a link between Australia Day and citizenship ceremonies is bizarre,’ Mayor O’Loughlin said.

‘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.

‘Other councils combine their citizenship ceremonies with their local Australia Day Citizen of the Year Awards, which are often held in the week before Australia Day, just as many of the state and territory governors do with their Australia Day Awards ceremonies.’

He said , ‘We do acknowledge that a small number of councils are in discussions with their communities about whether January 26 is the appropriate day to celebrate Australia Day,’ adding that, ‘it is our job to be responsive to our communities, including to their calls for prudence and advocacy’.

ALGA has called for the federal government’s plan ‘to show an equally strong commitment to assist councils with issues – such as cost – that may come with holding the ceremonies on Australia Day’.

‘There are significant additional event and staff costs associated with holding citizenship ceremonies on a public holiday, which is why some councils sensibly choose to hold it on a weekday instead,’ Mayor O’Loughlin said.

‘Interestingly, the federal government has made no mention of any financial contribution towards the additional costs involved in running these ceremonies – ceremonies conducted on behalf of the federal government – instead opting to continue a pattern of cost-shifting to councils.’

*David O’Loughlin is Mayor of City of Prospect in SA.

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  1. The querulous reluctance to acknowledge Australia day by a handful of leftist councils is hardly worth the cover some media outlets are giving it. Over 500 councils around the country are happy with the date and what it represents, why do these lefties keep flogging a dead horse?

  2. scomo? …. does anyone actually give a rats fart what this unelected embarrassment says or does anyway?
    .. had anyone ever heard of this mindless twit before we were informed he was our new supreme leader?

    • It is special to become an Australian Citizen & extra special to do it on Australia Day. I heard that the event could be used for financial & other reasons. It is a public holiday so many fellow citizens are able to witness the event. By the way, i’m not particularly impressed with our present PM but we do not vote for a PM, that is for the party in power to do.

    • In Australia we have a Westminster system, not a Presidential one. We elect local members and generally they belong to parties. Any informed voter knows not only who the liekly PM of each of the two main parties is, they are also well aware that there are other Ministers in the wings. As we are making judgements about whole of government performance we should know who those potential Ministers are and have general idea how they have performed in public. Given Scott Morrison was our Treasurer, I cannot see how anyone who follows the great game of politics would not have been aware of him and would not have considered him as a possible PM.

  3. Respect cannot be commanded which appears to be something that Scott Morrison doesnt understand. it is what he is trying to achieve here.
    Neither do clothes make the person.
    Local governments are responsible to their electors.
    The proposal to force – if he can actually do that – Local Government Councils to hold a ceremony on a particular day and people to dress in a particular way is another example of how out of touch and superficial this government is.
    The more he tries to force respect upon us the less respect I have for him.

  4. Irony?
    The 26th of January 1788, the day we have been ordered to celebrate the arrival of the “First boat people” to set up the penal colony of NSW, in New Holland.
    The British, removed from the USA by force of arms, no longer able to deposit convicts, had decided to invade New Holland, after the East coast had been chartered by Cook in 1770.
    Australia now to be ordered to have citizenship ceremonies on “First boat people day” by Morrison a person responsible for locking up boat people refugees and their children indefinitely and ignoring the abuse and rape of those children.
    Wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars, in legal litigation preventing medical treatment of those children.
    And the list of abuses goes on and on.
    Morrison a deeply floored man that knifed a sitting elected leader, a Prime Minister.
    Now, to scared to enter our Parliament, his Govt now a minority with no mandate to Govern, terrified of the vote of no confidence that will force him to an election that the country will then remove him and his failed party from office to the dust bin of history.
    Then the councils elected by the people, will have their ceremonies when they choose is appropriate.
    Morrison will then be free to “Dictate” to the fanatical evangelical fundamentalists congregation he belongs to, what ever his church cult is called this week.
    That evolution is a lie and the planet is only 6000 years old and created by a supernatural creator in just 6 days and if they don’t believe it they will be removed and shunned by the church and their families?

    • Tweed I repeat what I said above: in Australia we have a Westminster system, not a Presidential one. We elect local members and generally they belong to parties. The only people who elect a PM are the MPs that we have elected. The PM the legitimate head of governemnt and Scott Morrison has as much legitimacy as any other Prime Minister.

      The matter of Australia Day and when and how it celebrated is plainly a concern of all Australians and so any Australian governemnt. Taken together Scott Morrison has a mandate for his position and a mandate to represent the majority of Australians, and the large minority of indigenous people, who want Australia Day celebrated on the date it has been for 200 years (in NSW) , and who do not want a NSW council and some people in its Shire undermining the right of citizens to celebrate their national day on the day the majority prefers.

  5. Keep the ceremony on Australia day
    Just change the date to one that includes all of us
    I for one love Australia and being Australian but see no reason to celebrate the day Cook claimed the place for King George
    How about the date of Federation when we actually became a nation?
    Just a thought

  6. I think the date is quite appropriate, it marks the day when the British put up their flag on Aboriginal land. Both sides of that story need to be told on the day. The nature of the day needs to change not the date. The day needs to move to include an accurate account of what it meant for both sides. History cant be changed, but how we understand it can, and if people of immigrant backgrounds and Aboriginal people are to all stand together as fellow countrymen and women, then recognition of this part of Australias modern history, and how it fits in Australias far longer history, is the key issue for marking a genuine National Day. What have Aboriginal people got to celebrate on any other changed National Day. The disenfranchised need to be justly re enfranchised and then we can all join in with some sorry business in our celebrations on this day

    • Very well put John. We need to tell the story as it happened and there are lot of good parts to the British colonisation as well as enormous sadness. I would only suggest the narrative of “…people of immigrant backgrounds and Aboriginal people are to all stand together” is true but it leaves out that, particularly in NSW aboriginal people are of immigrant background and for the greater part from people of who came from Britain and Ireland in the 19th century. In the past many aboriginal people were forced by racism to deny their aboriginality; now some would have anyone of colonial British ancestry feel shame about that heritage. It is up to individuals how they relate to their family and see their own histories but we should not be encouraging aboriginal people or anyone else to feel shame about their British heritage because of popular but un-scholarly histories of our colonial past.


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