Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied playing politics with Australia Day by forcing councils across the nation to hold citizenship ceremonies on 26 January.
In an interview with TODAY, Mr Morrison said he is stepping in to direct councils because he doesn’t want to see Australia Day undermined in the future and “see it fade away”.
The Federal Government yesterday ramped up its intention to enforce local councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day.
Under the plans, Immigration Minister David Coleman will update the parliamentary code on how citizenship ceremonies are conducted.
The Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code will be introduced in the first half of 2019. Councils must hold a second citizenship ceremony on September 17 – Australian Citizenship Day.
A strict dress code for ceremonies will also be introduced banning board shorts and thongs.
“It is one thing to say you are not going to change the day, but it’s another thing to really actually believe it and continue to make sure it is our premier national day,” he said.
“What better day than that day for new Australians to become Australians.”
Mr Morrison said councils that don’t want to hold citizenship ceremonies on 26 January for political reasons, “they don’t have to hold ceremonies”.
“I mean they don’t hold them, we give them that right to do that and we want to make sure that they uphold the importance of that day, of Australia Day, and of citizenship, and that’s why I have connected the two things together,” he said.
When quizzed by TODAY show co-host Deborah Knight about whether his push to enforce councils was an overstep given only seven councils refuse to hold the ceremonies, Mr Morrison disagreed.
“That is not right, only 70 per cent of them hold them on Australia Day actually. There are many that don’t. There are some that have legitimate reasons that they may not have any to hand out on that day but we know there are many that don’t,” he said.
“If you want to hold Australia Day ceremonies and be given that privilege, Australia Day is the day, the first day that you must be handing them out.”
Forcing councils to have the ceremonies on Australia Day comes after a handful of municipalities voted to move citizenship events out of respect for indigenous people.
Yarra City Council in Melbourne was stripped of its power to hold citizenship ceremonies in August 2017.
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