Scott Morrison fires first shot in brewing Australia Day war as he warns local councils not to cancel events over ‘Invasion Day’ activism and demands they hold in-person citizenship ceremonies
- Invasion Day activists want Australia Day to be moved from January 26
- Some councils are either not holding citizenship ceremonies or events on date
- Immigration Minister said councils should not divide Australians over the date
- Councils can be stripped of their citizenship powers if they refuse to cooperate
- Warning comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison takes a week of annual leave
Scott Morrison‘s government has warned left-wing councils they scrap Australia Day celebrations to placate ‘Invasion Day’ protesters at their peril.
Campaigners want the national holiday moved from January 26 as it is the day the First Fleet of British settlers arrived Australia to begin colonisation.
Local councils are required to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26 and could have their citizenship powers revoked by the government if they fail to comply.
Most councils are still holding citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day but many are have called them off this year, citing either solidarity with Indigenous people and the Covid-19 pandemic.
A woman celebrates Australia Day at Sydney’s Bondi Beach on January 26, 2019. Scott Morrison’s government has warned councils to go ahead with Australia Day celebrations despite Invasion Day protests as the Prime Minister takes a holiday
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said local councils should not divide Australians over the contested date after a tough year marred by the pandemic.
‘For any council seeking to play politics with Australia Day citizenship ceremonies, our message is simple – don’t,’ Mr Hawke told The Australian.
‘Australians need this sort of negative bickering less than ever at this challenging time.
‘We know the vast majority of councils across the country will do the right thing when determining whether to hold online or physical citizenship ceremonies.’
Inner-city Melbourne councils Yarra and Darebin will not be holding citizenship ceremonies on January 26.
The two councils voted to stop referring to January 26 as Australia Day in 2017, which resulted in their citizenship powers being stripped.
Yarra and Darebin councils will also hold events commemorating Indigenous people in place of Australia Day events.
Protesters are seen during the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne on January 26, 2020. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said local councils should not divide Australians over the contested date after a tough year marred by the pandemic
Protestors are seen crossing the Victoria Bridge during the Invasion Day rally in Brisbane, on January 26, 2020.
Perth’s Fremantle, Byron Bay Shire in NSW, and Tasmania’s Flinders Island will also replace Australia Day celebrations with events celebrating Aboriginals.
Melbourne’s Moreland council postponed all of its citizenship ceremonies until further notice due to Covid-19 and will not be holding Australia Day celebrations.
Sydney’s Inner West, Liverpool, North Sydney, Parramatta, and Canterbury-Bankstown will still hold citizenship ceremonies but canceled large gatherings due to the pandemic.
Escalating tensions over the date of Australia Day come as Mr Morrison has taken a week of annual leave to holiday with his family.
He has handed over to Deputy PM and Nationals leader Michael McCormack until January 18, as health authorities plan the February roll-out of coronavirus vaccines.
‘While away I remain in contact with the Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, who will brief me on Covid-19 issues as they occur,’ Mr Morrison said.