March 2

Royal Anthem: Why State Governments misunderstand protocol


In a letter published in the March 2006 edition of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, ACM’s newspaper, the Premier of Victoria, the Hon Steve Bracks, writes that the Australian Royal Anthem, God Save the Queen, “is only played at official and ceremonial functions in Australia attended by a member of the Royal Family.”

Mr. Bracks was writing concerning the surprise deletion of the Royal Anthem at the ANZAC Shrine of Remembrance service in Melbourne last year.

Unfortunately, this is a common misunderstanding. There is even a view in non governmental organizations that it is somehow wrong to sing God Save The Queen.

We can now reveal how this misunderstanding came about.

On 19 April 1984 the Governor-General in Council , acting on the advice of the Hawke Government, issued a Proclamation which proclaimed “Advance Australia Fair” as Australia’s National Anthem and “God Save The Queen” as Australia’s Royal Anthem. (It also proclaimed a new Vice-Regal Salute for the Governor-General and new national colours for Australia.) The Proclamation was posted to this site this week.

When it was first submitted to the Governor-General, the Proclamation stated that the Royal Anthem was to be used only in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen or a member of the Royal Family.

To issue such a Proclamation would have exposed the government to ridicule. A government could hardly ban the use of God Save The Queen when royalty was not present, even if this were the unlikely intention of the draftsman. But that is how it read.

A Governor- General is of course no mere automaton.

Before the Executive Council meeting took place, the Governor-General,Sir Ninian Stephen, spoke to the recommending Minister and, later, at the meeting, before the Minute was approved by the Executive Council, the word “only” was deleted from the Proclamation by the Ministers present.

The Proclamation was then approved and signed by the Governor-General, and gazetted in Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. S 142 of 19 April 1984 in its amended form.

Later that day the Prime Minister’s office sent out a Press release announcing the matters which had been approved and proclaimed by the Governor-General in Council.

The Press release was wrong, in that its reference to the Royal Anthem contained the word “only” which had been deleted from the Proclamation.

Unfortunately, the Press release had obviously been prepared in anticipation of the Executive Council meeting, and the Ministers had failed to let the Prime Minister’s Press Office know what they had done at the meeting to amend the Proclamation.

That incorrect Press release has led to the kind of letter from the Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks referred to above. This letter was no doubt prepared on advice, but it repeats the error the Royal Anthem may be played only in the presence of a member of the Royal family.

This view is quite wrong, and the incorrect advice given out by Premiers’ departments over the years, and by State Government Houses acting on advice from their Premiers’ departments, has resulted in the Royal Anthem of Australia being dropped from RSL services and from other occasions.

In accordance with the Governor-General’s proclamation, Australians may play or sing “God Save the Queen” wherever and whenever they please, regardless of whether or not a member of the Royal Family is present.

And it should certainly be played for The Queen on her arrival at the Commonwealth Games – not as the British National Anthem but as the Australian Royal Anthem.


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