Carols by the creek

Mr DULUK (Waite) (15:22): I rise today to talk about Christmas carols and common sense. If you are surprised that Christmas carols and common sense are being uttered in the same sentence, you are not alone. Mr Speaker, I know that you are asking yourself: 'How could anything but common sense prevail in a discussion about Christmas carols?'

Music is an iconic feature of the Christmas season and an integral part of the Christmas celebrations in many cultures across the world, with the singing of Christmas carols a staple of local community calendars. Nothing other than common sense would possibly prevail in the hosting of these much-loved and well-supported events. I would have asked myself the same question a week or so ago, but enter Mitcham council, who sadly are at risk of making common sense an endangered practice.

Last week, the City of Mitcham voted to dump community Christmas carols as it is too religious and not inclusive enough. Yes, Mr Speaker, you heard right: because it is too religious. Mr Speaker, I can see that you are shocked and asking how this is possible because I know that you love attending Christmas carols in your own community. How could Christmas carols, an event that reflects love, joy, hope and celebrates a time of inclusion and unity, be dumped on the basis of being too religious or not inclusive enough?

It was a decision that blindsided my community and shocked and outraged me, and I am not alone. The Mitcham council's decision has attracted condemnation from across Australia and from all corners of the community. This is political correctness gone mad and it has taken the issue of exclusion too far, sending a damaging message that we cannot celebrate anything just in case it offends or excludes someone or something. Christmas may have its foundations in Christianity, but many people of other faiths not only enjoy the Christmas period and festivities that it brings but actively participate.

The response of the local community indicates just how passionate they are about Carols by the Creek in Mitcham. The response from the broader community indicates the frustration at councils once again acting way beyond their remit. It is another example of councils trying to shape society, driving a PC agenda and deciding what we should or should not like and who the problem is. Rather than running for council on an agenda of lower rates and more efficient service delivery, we are increasingly seeing society being shaped by PC rhetoric coming from local government and people running for local council on the basis of not serving their community, but on serving their own interests.

Australians across the country are fed up with their lives and longstanding customs and beliefs being eroded in the name of PC martyrs. I believe it is timely for a debate to be had on the roles and responsibilities of local government. I think there is a lot of merit in examining the Local Government Act to determine whether the powers of councils could be more strictly codified. It has never ever been envisaged—and it never should be envisaged—that councils have the authority to debate the merits of Australia Day, the singing of Christmas carols or even the support of the commemoration of ANZAC Day and otherwise.

The general public are sick of it, and I know right across the spectrum in my community, across South Australia and interstate that people are sick of being told what to do by councils. As one person posted on my Facebook page this week, they 'would rather Council stick to road engineering than social engineering'. I think that is a fantastic common-sense approach from the public in terms of what they want to see from their local government representatives and councils.

Christmas is a fantastic tradition and it is a time of celebration for the entire community. It is not just about the birth of Christ. It is about community, our traditions and our values. It is about spending time together and reflecting on the end of another year. It is an excuse for all Australians to get together to celebrate our community. Last week, the Mitcham council made a terrible decision. It was a decision that challenged the foundations of our community.

I would like to congratulate Councillor Adriana Christopoulos on requesting a special meeting for Tuesday night just gone and on moving a new motion to reverse the bad decision of the Mitcham council in relation to the cancellation of its carols. I actually do commend the council for unanimously on Tuesday reversing that terrible decision. I would also like to thank my colleagues the member for Elder and the member for Boothby for their support of my petition to reverse the council decision and to stop the City of Mitcham being the Christmas Grinch.

Whilst the original decision was appalling, I look forward to working with my community, all the groups that are involved in that community and participating in and hosting a fantastic Carols by the Creek 2019.