“It strikes the wrong cord “. This was the headline for the text of the letter published in The Australian on 2 March 2005, which Mr Steve Bracks, Premier of Victoria relied on to claim monarchist support for the ban on God Save The Queen being played at the Games.
The letter was reported in the media, most of the reports stating: “Even Australian Monarchist League national chairman Philip Benwell said leaving out God Save the Queen was not a snub.” An example was the Daily Telegraph of 2 March, 2006.
The letter as published reads:
“Organisers of the Commonwealth Games will not be playing God Save The Queen at the opening by the Queen on March 15, but instead will be playing Advance Australia Fair leading some monarchists to declare this to be a snub for Her Majesty. This is by no means a snub, for although God Save the Queen is the royal anthem, it is highly appropriate to play Advance Australia Fair as the national song of Australia in the presence of the Queen of Australia. Playing"God Save the Queen" then can give the impression that the Games in Melbourne are a British event – which they're not.
Australian Monarchist League"
Monarchists all over Australia protested strongly about this letter, so much so that within hours of its publication Mr Benwell issued sent out an email to “explain” the letter, referring to “some confusion” about it. He said in part:
“There seems to be some confusion following my email regarding the decision by the Commonwealth Games organisers not to play ‘God Save The Queen’. As Monarchists it is important that we never involve The Queen in any sort of controversy whatsoever. If Buckingham Palace have agreed that it is appropriate to play ‘Advance Australia Fair’, then so should we concur whatever our personal opinions may be.”
This was certainly not the reason given in the letter to The Australian, which was, in effect, that God Save The Queen was too British. The wish not to involve the Queen was clearly an afterthought .
In the meantime the Premier of Victoria firmly assured the Victorian Parliament that God Save The Queen would be banned at The Games . He cited the Benwell letter to indicate monarchist support for the banning.
On the following day , Mr Benwell must have been as surprised as everybody else when the organizers announced, contrary to the firm assurances of the Premier to the parliament that God Save The Queen had been banned, that eight bars of God Save The Queen would be sung as part of a birthday tribute to Her Majesty.
Few, including the Prime Minister, believed their assurance that this had been planned long before. If that were so, why had the Premier insisted to Parliament that the Royal Anthem had been banned .
That day Mr Benwell sent out another email suggesting he had known this all along . If he had , why did he write the letter to The Australian saying in effect the Royal Anthem should not be played because it was too British?
He said :“With regard to the furor over the playing of "God Save The Queen" at the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, I am now permitted to advise that plans had been made some time ago for eight bars of our Royal Anthem to be incorporated into a special musical tribute in honour of The Queen to be sung by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.The stand that I have consistently taken in this regard is that these protocols were approved by the Palace before it was announced that, as with all Commonwealth Games, it was the anthem of the host country which was to be played in the presence of The Queen and that as a consequence of this prior approval, there was, of course, no slur whatsoever to Her Majesty.”
A reading of his letter to The Australian will demonstrate that Mr. Benwell has been anything but consistent.
Not for the first time has Mr Benwell’s intervention delighted Australia’s republican movement.