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
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
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
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.
Jennifer blogs at No Place for Sheep, where this post was first published.