Moreland City Council's Citizenship Ceremonies threatened to stop by Scott Morrison

Mr. Scott Morrison, the former minister of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, threatened to revoke the rights of an inner-city Melbourne council that will conduct the ceremonies for the Australian Day citizenship after he had a stoush with the mayor.

In one of Mr. Morrison's last acts as the minister of the Immigration Department right before he was moved by Prime Minister Tony Abbot to the social services portfolio, sent a letter to the mayor of Moreland, who had openly protested reading out a ministerial message during the ceremonies.

This message was meant to be read out loud before giving official speeches.

According to Ms. Meghan Hopper, the mayor of the Moreland City Council, the reason why she didn't want to read the message out loud was because of the controversial asylum seeker policies that the Australian government has.

In her letter to Mr. Morrison, it states that: "In my introductory speech as mayor, I made a commitment to uphold Moreland's tradition of support for asylum seekers. This is a commitment I intend to honour".

Ms. Hopper is a member of the ALP, and she stated that Moreland had given a concerted efforted during the recent years to welcome refugees and asylum seekers and that the message of the minister is in conflict with the existing policies of the council.

However, the response that she got from Mr. Morrison was that the message would still have to be read otherwise, it could lead to the cancellation of the annual Australia Day citizenship ceremony.

Mr. Morrison also told Ms. Hopper that if she insisted in not reading the message, she, Ms. Helen Davidson, the deputy mayor, as well as the general manager of the council would be removed from their authority to perform the ceremony.

Ms Hopper said that she didn't like the idea of being "forced to act as a mouthpiece for a government whose policies this council does not agree with".

"Many citizens-to-be at Moreland are former asylum seekers," the mayor said. "I do not feel comfortable acting as a spokesperson when it comes to personal messages from the minister.''

She continued on to say, ''I feel that the reading of a message from the minister in fact politicises what should be an apolitical occasion, as does threatening to remove Moreland's ability to confer citizenship."

The reading of the message of the minister is not compulsory under legislation, this according to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection

In spite of this fact, Mr Morrison wrote in his letter to Ms Hopper that the "prerogative" was still his, and that the message MUST still be read out loud, given that it is being viewed as an "integral part of the ceremony".

As part of Mr. Morrison's response, he also included a one-page "letter of agreement" that Ms Hopper should sign. This letter of agreement states that she will include the message as part of the citizenship ceremony in Moreland.

"If you fail to comply with this request by January 10 2015, I will withdraw your authority, and that of the deputy mayor and general manager, to preside at Australian citizenship ceremonies," he stated in the letter.

Mr. Kon Karapanagiotidis, the founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, stated that the threat of the then-minister was "pretty extraordinary". "All credit to the mayor of Moreland; they're trying to draw a line in the sand," he said.

"Granting citizenship is one of the most precious things we can do and Morrison is someone who has done everything he can to leave a stain on everything it means to be a citizen of Australia," Mr. Karapanagiotidis also said.

As part of a cabinet reshuffle, Mr. Peter Dutton is the newly appointed Immigration Minister in December, and it is going to be Mr. Dutton who will decide should the threat given by Mr. Morrison be followed through.  



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