UPDATE: Govt stands by stern warning to Lismore Mayor
Thursday 10.20am: THE government has stood by its warning to Lismore City Council over its proposal to change date of Australia Day, reinforcing it "has made its position very clear".
Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border protection, Alex Hawke clarified his criticism about the move he outlined in a letter to Mayor Isaac Smith last week.
A spokeswoman for Mr Hawke said he was "expressing concern over the part of the motion that states: 'Identify more appropriate dates for holding Lismore citizenship ceremonies'".
"The inference is that January 26, Australia Day, is somehow now an "inappropriate" day to hold a citizenship ceremony," the spokeswoman said.
"Thus bringing citizenship ceremonies into the council's political motion to change the date of Australia Day.
"Australia Day should be celebrated on 26 January and this remains a most appropriate date to hold a citizenship ceremony."
Wednesday 5:36pm: LISMORE Mayor Isaac Smith criticised the Federal Government for assuming it had moved to change date of Australia Day in a letter sent to him last week.
Cr Smith clarified the council had consulted its Aboriginal Advisory Committee to discuss changing the controversial date.
The committee's decision will be documented in a report to be tabled at the next ordinary council meeting.
Councillor Darlene Cook said Minister Alex Hawke's letter was "heavy-handed" and "over-stepped the mark" given the council had only "posed the question" about changing the Australia Day date.
"I am appalled that we are getting letters from the Office of Immigration and Border Protection on the topic," Cr Cook said.
At this stage, Cr Smith said Lismore's discussion about the national day as a community had only just begun.
He predicted there would be more consultation in the coming months and emphasised the community's stance will guide his stance about changing the date.
In the meantime, he said he was "very happy to take direction" from the Office of Immigration and Border Protection.
When asked why councillors were informed about the letter seven days after he received it, Cr Smith said he didn't feel it was appropriate to disclose the correspondence until the Aboriginal Advisory Committee had consulted about changing the date.
Wednesday 3.30pm: THE Office of Immigration and Border Protection has threatened to revoke Lismore City Council's right to conduct citizenship ceremonies if it moves to change the Australia Day date.
Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Alex Hawke penned the warning in a letter to Mayor Isaac Smith on August 23 but it was sent to councillors via email on Wednesday afternoon.
It has been described by councillor Vanessa Ekins, who moved the notice of motion to change the Australia Day date at this month's council meeting, as "a knee jerk reaction" by "bully boys".
"It's the Federal Government beating its chest," Cr Ekins said.
She said she may remove the second part of her motion which set out to 'identify more appropriate dates for holding Lismore citizenship ceremonies' to avoid endangering their ability to hold citizenship ceremonies.
"We do not want to jeopardise our citizenship ceremonies," Cr Ekins said, who emphasised they are a crucial community event.
She denied the move to edit her motion was bowing to the Federal Government's demands.
"It's not bowing, it's acknowledging that we are at the beginning of a process," Cr Ekins said.
That process she said is one she wants to be inclusive to get the entire community on board to make Australia Day more culturally inclusive for indigenous peoples.
The letter came as no surprise to Deputy Mayor, Gianpiero Battista who said he didn't want to see the council deprived of its duty to conduct citizenship ceremonies like Yarra Council in Melbourne.
"It's a clear warning. It was expected because of what happened in Melbourne," Cr Battista said.
Councillors Bill Moorhouse and Neil Marks had not yet seen the email and declined to comment until they had read the letter.
All Lismore City councillors, including Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith were contacted for comment.