Multiple Sydney councils have been accused of using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to scrap Australia Day events.
NSW has recorded 16 days in a row of no locally transmitted coronavirus cases but some councils have already said Australia Day plans won’t be going ahead due to the risk of spreading the virus.
Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool and The Hills are some of the Sydney councils that have cancelled some of their upcoming events for January 26 due to COVID-19.
This is despite the National Australia Day Council offering grants of up to $20,000 to help councils increase COVID safety measures so events can go ahead.
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The Inner West and North Sydney councils also won’t be going ahead with some of their Australia Day events.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly has lashed out at these councils, claiming they were using COVID-19 as an excuse not to hold Australia Day events.
“This just complete nonsense. We know there are so many bureaucrats around the place that just love to cancel things and ban things,” he told 2GB’s Ben Fordham.
“We also know there are many people that actually don’t want Australia Day and are looking for an excuse to cancel it.”
Mr Kelly said NSW’s success in suppressing the virus meant there was not excuse for councils not to be holding these outdoor events.
“We’ve got to get on with life. We just can’t continue to suspend all these things. If we had coronavirus infections like they do in America maybe there would be some argument there,” he said.
“But we have had zero infections in NSW in the last 15 days and we know from past evidence that the coronavirus is a seasonal virus, infections are very low in summertime anyway.
“These are outdoor events, there is no excuse to ban them. These local councils need to be called out. It is just nonsense and petty, foggy bureaucracy.”
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Cumberland City mayor Steve Christou echoed these thoughts, labelling the decisions being made by some councils as “un-Australian”.
“I think the decision taken by some councils to cancel their Australia Day events is completely unacceptable and frankly un-Australian, particularly if the events can be hosted in a COVID-safe manner,” The Sydney Morning Heraldreported him as saying.
The publication revealed the usual pool parties and concert held by City of Canterbury Bankstown to celebrate Australia Day wouldn’t go ahead this year due to not being “essential”.
A council spokeswoman told the outlet the Australia Day Awards and citizenship event would still go ahead but would be a “scaled back seated event with tight COVID controls and no catering”.
Liverpool City Council’s outdoor Australia Day 2021 event won’t be going ahead but there was the possibility of a virtual celebration being held.
The Sydney Morning Herald also reported the Hills Shire Council had cancelled its Australia Day concert but an awards and citizenship ceremony would still be held.
News.com.au has contacted Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool and The Hills councils for comment.
North Sydney’s BBQ by the Bridge Australia Day event also won’t be taking place, but this is reportedly due to major Harbour Bridge works where the event is held.
This will be the second year in a row the Inner West Council won’t hold an Australia Day event on January 26 after the council voted in 2019 to scrap the celebration.
Residents were instead encouraged to attend the Aboriginal Yabun festival held that day.
“Attitudes towards 26 January are changing in the community,” Mayor Darcy Byrne said at the time.
“For Aboriginal people, the date represents the beginning of colonisation, dispossession, the removal of children and deliberate destruction of language and culture.
“A growing number of Australians want that to be respectfully acknowledged.”