Was it a backflip? Did they just forget? Was it to be a surprise? And is it just a sop?
The wonderful Dame Kiri Te Kanawa is to sing about eight bars of God Save The Queen in a musical tribute to Her Majesty at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, according to a report in the Melbourne Herald Sun of 3 March, 2006.This followed the mounting calls, backed by Prime Minister John Howard, for the Royal Anthem to be played. The ban on the Rroyal Anthem was first discovered by Chris Tinkler , a journalist on the Herald Sun. Since his relevation, the story has been in the headlines here,and around the world – in the UK, Canada , New Zealand, the Ccommonwealth and other countries.
But the organisers claim the apparent concession was decided long ago!
A very strong view has emerged across the country, and not only among monarchists, that a verse- at least- from each the Royal Anthem and Advance Australia should be played.
A poll taken by the Daily Telegraph published on 4 March, 2006 attracted several times the number of callers. They voted 92% to 8% in favour of the Royal Anthem.
The opposition to the singing of the Royal Australian Anthem, along with and not instead of Advance Australia Fair seems limited to the diminishing republican movement, and curiously, Mr. Philip Benwell.
His letter, as a monarchist, against the playing of God Save The Queen, appeared in The Australian on 2 March 2006. Unsurprisingly, it was seized on with alacrity by Mr. Steve Bracks who no doubt feels himself isolated on this issue.
Mr Benwell then complained about some “confusion” in monarchist ranks about his letter, but from most of the calls and emails to ACM, the reaction was not at all confused-just strong opposition and often outrage.
Some contacted us to remind us of Mr Benwell’s equally curious campaign in 2004 for the election of the former republican leader, Mr. Malcolm Turnbull, to Parliament.This had elicited such strong opposition that he was forced to announce that this campaign was not endorsed by any monarchist organization, but was a personal intitative.
In the meantime, the announcement that the organizers long ago planned to play a few bars of God Save The Queen is being received with cynicism. Some people are saying that Mr Bracks can’t stop them, as the first draft of the 1984 Proclamation seemed to try to do, from singing what they want and when they want.
Just remember what the Prime Minister said in a doorstop interview on 28 August, 2003 when the organizers of the Rugby World Cup tried to ban Waltzing Matilda from the Rugby World Cup matches:
“I think it’s very silly. I resent it. Waltzing Matilda is deeply evocative of Australian culture and how can you justify trying to ban the singing of it and allow other presentations which are evocative of the culture of other countries? But in any event, I pose the question – how are they going to stop it being sung? You try and stop 82,000 Australians singing Waltzing Matilda – you’ll only make their night.”
When a journalist asked:” So you’ll encourage people to sing the song if it is banned?
The Prime Minister shot back:”Of course I will. I think it’s ridiculous and I’m sure they’ll rethink their decision, if they’ve made the decision.”
So , apart from questions of protocol and courtesy, the danger for the country is that the international media may well decide that this is to be the principal story to come out of the opening ceremony. The solution to this is eminently simple, and the obstinacy of the officials on this is difficult to understand.