The federal government will enforce new rules requiring local councils to hold Australia Day citizenship ceremonies on 26 January, after a number of them switched to other dates out of respect to indigenous Australians.

"Australia Day is a chance for all Australians to celebrate our successful multicultural nation," said Immigration Minister David Coleman in a radio interview.  "We want as many people as possible to receive the privilege of citizenship on January 26.

"So if a council doesn't hold ceremonies on Australia Day, then they lose the right to hold them and the government would hold them directly," Coleman continued.  "We already do that sometimes now, but we would we would do it in on more occasions if there were councils that didn't comply with the rules."

This comes after Launceton, Tasmania switched its citizenship shindig up one day, from 26 January to 25 January.  Other local governments planned to switch the date for ceremonies, including Toowoomba, Ipswich, Rockhampton, some northern New South Wales councils.

Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten says it has become clear that 26 January - the anniversary of the day the British sailed to Sydney and declared it part of the empire (despite people already living there) - has become divisive.

"Hosting our citizenship, awards and other events on January 25 - as some other Northern Tasmanian councils already do - will go some way to ensuring all members of our community can celebrate these events, and what it means to be Australian," he said.  


"If the Federal Government mandates that Councils must hold their citizenship ceremonies on January 26, today's motion makes clear that the City of Launceston will follow that ruling," van Zetten said.  "Given the choice, we believe it's appropriate not to host these events on January 26."