One of the last despotic acts of former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison was to threaten to revoke the power of Moreland City Council Mayor, Meghan Hopper, to perform citizenship ceremonies unless she agreed to read out his ministerial message during the ceremonies.
Moreland Council has a policy of welcoming refugees into the shire.
Ms Hopper stated: “I do not feel comfortable acting as a spokesperson when it comes to personal messages from the minister. 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 Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code states: Citizenship ceremonies are non-commercial, apolitical, bipartisan and secular.They must not be used as forums for political, partisan or religious expression or for the distribution of material which could be perceived to be of a commercial, political or religious nature.
The Sydney Morning Herald article notes: According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the reading of the minister’s message is not compulsory under legislation.
Despite that, Mr Morrison said in his letter to Ms Hopper that it was his “prerogative” that the message be read aloud, as it is an “integral part of the ceremony”.
As part of his response, Mr Morrison included a one-page “letter of agreement” for Ms Hopper to sign, stating that she will include the message as part of Moreland’s ceremony.
“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 said in the letter.
It is difficult to see this behaviour by Morrison as anything more than petty revenge against a Mayor and council who oppose the Abbott government’s refugee policies.
No one should be surprised at Morrison’s efforts at petty revenge. Such efforts are the hallmark of a government that has spent the majority of its time so far in office deliberately trashing previous ALP policies for no reason other than that they were ALP policies.
There is no legislation that requires any official performing citizenship ceremonies to read out a ministerial message. Regardless of the law, Morrison employed intimidatory bullying tactics to demand his speech be read in the future. This is, he claims, his “prerogative.” Note that legislation is irrelevant to this minister of the crown. What counts here is his personal “prerogative.”
As Morrison is now Minister for Social Services we can expect an ongoing disregard for legislation, and a lot more bullying on the grounds of his personal prerogatives.
A minister of the crown must uphold legislation or seek to change it. Deliberately ignoring legislation and instead attempting to impose one’s personal prerogative over and above it, is not acceptable ministerial behaviour. Ministers of the crown have a particular responsibility to respect our laws.
Morrison’s former department, when seeking extended powers for him, argued thus: The DIBA submission to a Senate committee argues that an elected member of parliament and minister of the Crown has gained a particular insight into the community’s standards and values.
The rest of us are expected to observe the laws that govern community standards and values. If an elected member of parliament and minister of the crown so conspicuously fails to do this, and instead threatens and bullies others on the sole grounds of his personal prerogative, we do not have a democratic government, we have a burgeoning dictatorship.
This article was originally published on No Place for Sheep.
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