A Melbourne council’s vote to drop all references to Australia Day after a politician compared it to “celebrating the Nazi holocaust”, has been criticised by the country’s government.
Sue Bolton, a councillor for the Socialist Alliance, said that hosting ceremonies and events for the official national day on 26 January was “grossly insensitive” to the indigenous Aboriginal people.
Moreland City Council subsequently voted to drop all references to the date as Australia Day for reasons of cultural sensitivity, although it stopped short of cancelling its official citizenship ceremony which takes place on the same day.
Australia Day commemorates the arrival of the first European fleet of convicts and naval officers to the country after 11 ships left England on 13 May 1787.
Assistant immigration minister Alex Hawke criticised Moreland’s “divisive” decision on behalf of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“The Turnbull Government strongly condemns comparisons of Australia Day with the Nazi Holocaust as deeply offensive to all Australians,” he said in a statement. “Already we have stripped councils of the right to administer citizenship where they have violated the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code.
“The government will consider (the) Moreland motion, and the nature of the public debate and consider further action as appropriate,” added Mr Hawke.
The government last month stripped two other Melbourne councils, Yarra and Darebin, of their right to host citizenship ceremonies after councillors voted to shift them away from 26 January.
Mr Turnbull said in August he had taken action against the two authorities because he believed they were “using a day that should unite Australia to divide Australia.”
He told the country’s parliament that “an attack on Australia Day is a repudiation of the values the day celebrates: freedom, a fair go, mateship and diversity.”
He added: “On Australia Day, we recognise the…