Un Pettitt peu Former Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt gave us an insight into just how much weight (and money) the federal government was willing to chuck about to try to rein in rogue councils on the issue of Australia Day.
In 2017 Freo became the first local government to shift its Australia Day celebrations away from January 26. As late as 2020 The Australia Day Council (WA) wrote to Pettitt to brief him on the “new $8 million grant program available to LGAs nationally to support the delivery of COVID-safe Australia Day events” and that Fremantle had the opportunity to secure access to an “invitation only” sponsorship of $750,000.
It didn't stop there. Pettitt said that Morrison's trusted advisor and Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Ben Morton contacted the mayor to offer to top up the grant to $1 million. The offer was declined. Pettitt told Crikey: “It can only be described as an act of desperation by the Commonwealth government -- akin to putting their thumb in a hole to stop a leak in a dam wall -- to offer local governments large sums of money to keep celebrations on January 26”.