Councils push Dutton’s buttons on Australia Day celebrations

A very sun smart Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton enjoying Australia Day celebrations in Altona. (digitally altered)

Hobsons Bay City Council has supported local events and activities on Australia Day for over 20 years, and last year Council’s coffers coughed up more than $20,000 for Australia Day celebrations, most of which was delivered through its ‘major event’ grants scheme.

The Council has always fulfilled its obligation under the direction of the Federal Government to conduct citizenship ceremonies on January 26 despite some local councils taking it upon themselves to decide not to formally recognise the historically significant date.

Speaking with 2GB talkback radio host Ray Hadley about reports concerning a number of local councils in New South Wales, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said that any council that tries to move Australia Day citizenship ceremonies from January 26 will be punished.

“The Government’s written already to… I think it was 538 councils… warning them, providing advice around what needed to happen, and we’ve stripped the ability for some councils to hold Australia Day ceremonies,” he said.

“It’s not about politics and if they want to make it about politics, they can do it on their own time, but we’ll find somebody else to do the citizenship ceremony and the councils that you mentioned need to be warned.”

“I don’t care whether people are seeking to move it in an obvious way, playing games – the intent is very clear. Australians don’t want councils playing politics with these issues. This might be the agenda of the Greens and Labor, but it’s not the agenda of ratepayers.”

“People expect Australia Day to be a respectful day, ceremonies to be conducted for young kids and parents who have taken Australian citizenship, probably for a lot of them the proudest day in their life. They don’t want to be disrupted by this nonsense.”

“If they want to use ratepayer’s money to run political causes, well hopefully they’re voted out the next council election. For us the rules are pretty clear, and if they’re not going to abide by it then they’ll find themselves without the ability to conduct a ceremony.”

Several councils, including Melbourne’s Yarra Council and Northern NSW’s Byron Bay Council, have already had their powers to hold citizenship ceremonies stripped entirely after attempting to move Australia Day plans.

In a recent post to social media, Prime Minister Scott Morrison also chimed in on the Australia Day debate and said indulgent self-loathing doesn’t make Australia stronger, but being honest about the past does.

“Our modern Australia nation began on January 26, 1788. That’s the day to reflect on what we’ve accomplished, become, still to achieve. We can do this sensitively, respectfully, proudly, together,” he said.

The ‘Change The Date’ movement and ‘Invasion Day’ campaign may well be popular in other local government areas, but apparently there have been no complaints from the community regarding Australia Day celebrations in Hobsons Bay.

In a statement to Willy and Hobby, Hobsons Bay City Council noted its long-standing support of local events and activities on Australia Day, also confirming that there had been no consideration to date by Council to change its position.

“Council has supported Australia Day celebrations in Hobsons Bay for more than 20 years. Council has been a proud supporter of the annual Lions Club Australia Day breakfast since 2001 and Australia Day celebrations in Altona since 2009,” the Council said.

“This year, Council contributed $21,000 to Australia Day in Altona celebrations after the Altona Village Traders Association successfully applied for a grant through the Hobsons Bay Major Events Fund.”

“There has been no consideration to date by Council of any change to the long-standing practice of conducting citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day, or with regard to the formal recognition of Australia Day on January 26.”

Council also said it is not aware of any complaints from the community regarding Australia Day, though Hobsons Bay Mayor Jonathon Marsden believes the Federal Government should ‘lead a conversation about the need for a change of date’ for Australia Day.

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