Councillor Don Palmer Providing Local Leadership & Working for You

Are roads, rates & rubbish the limit to Council’s jurisdiction?

Recent ongoing media dialogue about Councils getting ahead of themselves prompts this question of whether roads, rates & rubbish should be the limit of the responsibilities of Councils.

This dialogue is suggesting that Councils are getting into matters, not their concern. Moving away from their fundamental role of roads, rates & rubbish. The print media and radio talkback have led this campaign wherein we are being told to pull our heads in. The message they are promoting is to stop getting involved in business which is the responsibility of other levels of government.

It reached a crescendo yesterday on the back of a recent Mitcham Council decision. It commenced a month or so ago with one (a decision) from your very own Unley Council.

Did Mitcham Council cross that line or not? I cannot comment on their decision. I have not checked the minutes of their meeting. It is not my intention to.

I can however comment on the one of ours that attracted widespread attention. A decision certainly I was implicated in.

In May Unley Council voted to shift the Citizenship Ceremony scheduled for January next year from the 26th to the 25th. The 26th of course is Australia Day.

These Ceremonies have previously always been held on the 26th of January. Australia Day. Why? Because it was legislated that way. We had no choice.

The Federal Government have now decreed that these ceremonies can be held up to 3 days prior or 3 days post the 26th. This means it IS our decision to make, irrespective of what some of our ratepayers may think.


But why change you may ask?

The opportunity to debate when to hold a citizenship ceremony on Australia Day inevitably brings up ideological differences. Indeed, this was apparent in the Unley Council debate.

The merits of each ideologic argument you don’t need me to identify. I suggest you know them only too well, whichever way you may see it.

The vote was 7 to 5 in favour of the shift. I voted in favour of the change.


I voted that way because I saw the merit in holding the event at the start of the long weekend. Doing so allows those who attend to make the most of the long weekend. Having it on the 26th (the Friday) would get in the way of this.

I voted that way because the Citizenship Ceremony (I believe) is not an Australia Day event. Even though the public is welcome to attend, it is first and foremost a Citizenship Ceremony. Something that has not been recognised in the public debate.

We have upwards of 4 Citizenship Ceremonies in a year. None of the other ceremonies are locked into a given date. Why therefore should this one?

The focal point of negativity towards our decision was that we did not consult. We should have consulted our community I have heard over and over again.

Now it is my turn to ask why?

No one is asking us to consult over the holding of the other three citizenship ceremonies. Likewise, about any other event we might stage. Our outdoor cinemas, the coffee fiestas we used to have. I would love to stage that one again.

Nobody is arguing that we should go out to consultation on those and a myriad of other events. I ask, therefore, why should we with this one? Why should we tell our new citizens their event must be on Australia Day while the majority of us won’t be attending?

So, in closing, I believe we are not changing Australia Day. We are explicitly changing a citizenship ceremony that has been linked to Australia Day and which is no longer required.