February 13

Jeff Kennett wants change: A new anthem…and a new constitution

With the proposal from Jeff Kennett to change the National Anthem, it seems to be assumed that Advance Australia Fair was approved as the National Anthem by the people.

This is not so.  In 1974 the Whitlam government decided that a nationwide opinion survey should be undertaken to choose a national song, not a National Anthem.

As a result, Advance Australia Fair was chosen as the national song, to be used on all occasions excepting those of a specifically regal nature.

 In 1976 the Fraser government reinstated God Save The Queen for royal, vice-regal, defence, and loyal toast occasions. It also decided on a national poll  to find a national  song for use on ceremonial occasions when it was desired to mark a separate Australian identity.

This was held as an optional additional question with the  1977 referendums.  Advance Australia Fair received 43.29% of the vote, defeating the three alternatives: Waltzing Matilda (28.28%), Song of Australia (9.65%), and the existing National Anthem, God Save the Queen (18.78%)

In 1984 the Hawke government advised the Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen ( who played a significant role in correcting  the terms of the Proclamation were not an embarrassment) to proclaim Advance Australia Fair, with the lyrics modified,  as the Australian National Anthem and God Save The Queen as Australia’s Royal Anthem.   

So it can be seen that more Australians favoured Advance Australia Fair as the National Song. But the people were not formally asked their views on the National Anthem. This demonstrates how politicians can use such a vote for purposes not known when the people voted.  

It is curious that Jeff Kennett is not the first former Premier to argue for change to the National Anthem. Some years ago Bob Carr also suggested change. 

But this is not something which should be done often. To change when the decision was only made in 1984 seems far too soon.

And it is surely correct to allow the decision to be made by  the people.

….Jeff Kennett a strong constitutional monarchist….

If Mr. Kennett has changed his mind on the National Anthem it is interesting to note he also changed his mind on the constitution.

In a splendid and well argued paper to The Samuel Griffith Society in 1993 he declared:

I am more than happy to go out and argue the case for the retention of our constitutional monarchy. In doing so I think no less of those who disagree with me and argue in favour ofAustralia becoming a republic.

Those who wish to see new constitutional arrangements are no more or no less patriots than myself.

However, I will remind those who seek change that the onus is on them to provide substantive arguments as to why Australia should forfeit a constitutional system which has served the nation with distinction.

Our current system of constitutional monarchy does not have to justify its continuing existence.

It has served – and continues to serve – this nation well.  As we approach the twenty first Century Australia is a proud, independent, thriving democracy. We enjoy political stability and a strong social fabric.

The challenge facing our nation as we approach the next century is not whether Australia should become a republic.

What we need to focus on is the real challenge of delivering a better quality of life for all Australians; preserving our vibrant democratic traditions, which have successfully buttressed the rule of law; and harnessing the human talent and physical resources of Australia to achieve greater prosperity.

….Jeff Kennett a strong minimalist republican…

But only five years later, Mr. Kennett announced to the Constitutional Convention his complete conversion to republicanism. He gave this rather limp reason for removing one of the pillars of the constitution and our oldest institution which he had previoulsy said did not have to justify its continuing existence :

We should be conscious that the time has come when Australia not only should be independent, which it has long been, but should be seen nationally to be independent without qualification or limitation or need for explanation.

The constitutional monarchists were not alone in wondering what happened in the last five years.



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