Australia Day date change not a LGAT priority

Trudy Maluga wants Australia Day changed.
Trudy Maluga wants Australia Day changed.

The Local Government Association of Tasmania president will not predict the success of a grassroots campaign to persuade the federal government to change the date of Australia Day

The reignition of a debate to change Australia Day from January 26 came after Hobart City Council Lord Mayor Sue Hickey called for councils to support her crusade.

Alderman Hickey wants to move a motion at the Local Government Association’s July meeting for councils to “consider efforts they could take to lobby the federal government to change the date of recognition of Australian Day”.

When asked about a potential motion at the LGAT conference, president Doug Chipman was reluctant to discuss an outcome.

“I will be chairing the LGAT meeting and it is impossible to predict the outcome of the debate at this stage,” he said. 

“Some councils are of the view that local government should stick to roads, rates and rubbish and it has not been an issue in their communities.

“Other councils, noting that they have a responsibility under the Local Government Act to represent and promote the interests of their community, believe they have a mandate on this.”

On Monday the City of Launceston aldermen will discuss their position on the matter ahead of the ordinary meeting on June 26.

Alderman Chipman’s opinion was any date change should be a matter for the federal government.

“I do wonder how it intends to gauge community opinion on this issue, and whether or not local government might be consulted in the process,” he said. 

A spokesman for Liberal Senator for Tasmania Eric Abetz did not budge when pressed on whether he would consider raising the issue.

“The Prime Minister has already dismissed this ill-conceived idea and the government’s position is clear and unambiguous – something that Senator Abetz fully supports,” the spokesman said. 

State Labor’s Deputy Leader Michelle O’Byrne recognised there was some concern from communities about January 26.

“I think we’re mature enough and grown up enough to have conversation about whether it is the most appropriate day,” she said. 

“There may be days of other national significance that we can have that don’t cause such pain to our first people.” 

She said January 26 had only been celebrated as Australia Day for a short time.