Daniel McCulloch and Rebecca Gredley
(Australian Associated Press)
The federal government has warned politicians could be stripped of their right to hold citizenship ceremonies as the debate around the date of Australia Day continues.
Ten days out from Australia Day the Greens offered to host citizenship ceremonies on behalf of local councils on January 26 out of respect for indigenous people.
But Acting Citizenship Minister Mathias Cormann says the ceremonies – which all federal MPs and senators currently have the right to preside over – can’t be used as forums for political expression.
“As our government has done with two local councils already, the minister can revoke a person’s or an organisation’s authorisation to conduct citizenship ceremonies, by changing the relevant legislative instrument,” Senator Cormann said in a statement.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale isn’t phased, saying there would have to be a vote in the Senate to change the regulations.
“Let’s remember what this is about, this is about a day that represents so much hurt and suffering for first nations peoples,” the senator told Sky News on Wednesday.
“We lose nothing by changing the day on which we celebrate Australia Day.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the Greens leader is pulling a stunt to undermine the holiday.
“It’s not good enough to say that you just won’t change it,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Vanuatu on Wednesday.
“You have to stand up for it. And I’m standing up for it.”
Meanwhile, three-in-four people believe Australia Day should continue to be celebrated on January 26, according to a new poll.
Commissioned by right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, the poll shows just 10 per cent of 1000 people surveyed want to change the date of the national day.
The prime minister plans to force councils to hold ceremonies on Australia Day and enforce a strict dress code at official events in an attempt to preserve the date.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has declared he will never move the date of Australia Day if he becomes prime minister and has no desire to tell people what they could wear at citizenship ceremonies.
The opposition leader refused to buy into the Greens’ idea on citizenship ceremonies.
“Some days I’d like to put the Greens with Tony Abbott and a few of the right-wing in the Liberal Party in the same room, tell them to sort it out, and the rest of us can just get on and cook a snag on the barbie,” Mr Shorten told the Nine Network on Wednesday.
“The Greens can say or do what they want. Labor is not going to go down that path. We’re not going to have big political debates about the day of Australia Day.”