Prime Minister Scott Morrison insists it is opposition leader Bill Shorten and a few local councils, not the Coalition, that are politicising Australia Day.
The politically correct brigade is once again gearing up to tar the national holiday with derogatory slogans like ‘invasion day’, and enlisting the support of a few vocal far-left local councils who have refused to hold citizenship ceremonies on the date.
But the government has had enough and plans to force councils to have citizenship ceremonies on 26 January.
Morrison is disappointed by Shorten’s hesitancy in backing the move, which the PM believes makes the most sense.
Ridding Australia Day of politics
The new movement is in response to the taboo that’s been enhanced in the last couple of years regarding the correlation between Australia Day and the arrival of the British First Fleet.
Many municipalities had voted to move their citizenship dates away from 26 January to respect the trauma which our First Australians link to that date.
But it’s exactly this negative correlation which Morrison seeks to remove by forcing citizenship ceremonies to be conducted on Australia Day.
The idea is that these forced ceremonies would want to remain distant from any sort of tainted stigma about recognising Australian citizenship. The result would be a sort of forced removal of ‘playing politics with Australia Day’, as Morrison said on Sunday.
As such, as the Australian Associated Press reports, Morrison was not happy with Shorten’s scepticism over the plan:
‘I think Bill Shorten is having a cop-out on this,” Mr Morrison told reporters in the Northern Territory.
‘If some councils as we’ve seen want to play games, well, you don’t have to run citizenship ceremonies, other arrangements will be made.
‘But we will not undermine Australia’s national day.’
And with this zero-tolerance for undermining comes a strict dress code for citizenship ceremonies. Informal clothing items such as board shorts and thongs will be banned.
‘I’m a prime minister for standards,’ Mr Morrison said in response to the dress code.
Opposers see no sense in the idea
Of course, the opposition wouldn’t be living up to its name if it didn’t poke holes in a Coalition plan.
With Australia Day fast approaching, Shorten sees the reawakened national debate as nothing but a political move by the conservatives, as AAP reports:
‘You sort of know when Australia Day’s coming up don’t you, when a couple of weeks before we get the annual conservative outing to put politics into Australia Day.
‘It’s what the conservatives do to keep their base happy.’
And yet, Shorten has said that he didn’t rule out supporting the plan, nor would he remove the public holiday if he were in government. So, his ‘give it a rest’ attitude only goes so far.
And some are clearly missing the point behind Morrison’s decision, judging it as a pointless endeavour towards political correctness. As Australian Local Government Association president David O’Loughlin says:
‘The federal government’s strong focus on drawing a link between Australia Day and citizenship ceremonies is bizarre.
‘The government doesn’t even announce the Australian of the Year on Australia day, so it’s very curious.’
Giving citizens freedom of choice
Perhaps the greatest confusion derives from the use of the word ‘force’. Such a term, as Immigration Minister David Coleman says, means ‘councils will no longer be able to say no to Australia Day,’ according to AAP.
It does not, however, force people to choose 26 January as their day to receive citizenship. For instance, 17 September — Australian Citizenship Day — may be a preferred choice.
What Morrison is giving people is the option.
‘To become an Australian on Australia Day is incredibly special,’ the PM said.
‘Our government believes all new citizens should have the opportunity to become an Australian on Australia Day.
‘At the moment, that’s not the case. More than 100 councils around Australia don’t hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day.
‘Why should councils be able to stop someone who is about to become an Australian citizen from the great honour of becoming a citizen on Australia Day?’
So really, what’s the harm in letting this happen?