The headline in the Herald Sun on Saturday, 4 March 2006 said it all: ”Games Minister Justin Madden said the snippet would satisfy royalists without upsetting republicans.”
This refers to the decision to play only eight bars of the Royal Australian Anthem at the Commonwealth Games opening in breach of Australian protocol established by the Hawke government, and followed by the Keating and Howard governments. This decision, which we were previously told had been taken months ago, is apparently being done not to offend some unnamed republicans! And who are they that they are so important that protocol be breached?
In the meantime, as The Queen’s visit approaches, the usual republican stunts are being recycled. One is the cost, although the cost of no other visit by anybody else is criticized.
To put this in perspective, the Daily Telegraph revealed on 4 March 2005 that the New South Wales republican government last year spent $77million on the mental disorders of public servants, the most affected being in the RTA, the Roads and Traffic Authority. That government also wastes spends millions on hundreds of top level public servants who have no job. Some of them have been at home for years .
The logic of this infantile criticism about cost is that all visits to Australia from anyone, and all diplomatic and consular representation should end. We should isolate ourselves from the world.
Now most of the costs involve an accounting appropriation-presumably the salaries of those involved, the police and so on. These would still be paid if they not providing security for The Queen. To that extent no additional expenditure is involved.
Of course there has to be security for visiting presidents, ministers, princes, secretaries –general, religious leaders, accredited diplomats and consuls – this is required by treaties and good sense. And it is not one way. When our leaders, diplomats, consuls and so on are overseas, security is supplied for them by the countries they visit.
Apart from this tired and misleading argument about costs, the republican commentariat will recycle the same criticisms we have heard for years.
For example, the ABC TV Insiders has a spot for a rank and file, unknown member of the public to put his or her point. But on 5 March, 2006, viewers did not see a member of the public.
This time, the slot was occupied by that commentariat elder , Crikey.com’s oxymoronic republican Royal watcher, Barry Everingham.
He told us, as he usually does about his Royal connections – how he had met The Queen Then we had a lecture on why we should not sing the Australian Royal Anthem.
Why did the ABC allow a republican commentator to expropriate this people’s segment?
Then republican commentator Malcolm Farr frothed at the mouth about the “ridiculous” situation we find ourselves in as a constitutional monarchy. Andrew Bolt, who is a republican, took the wind out of Mr. Farr’s sails by reminding him he had in fact lost the referendum.
On Channel 9, Senator Vanstone argued that it was appropriate to sing the Royal Anthem at the Games.
The senator explained that she was a fervent republican because she wanted a governor –general or head of state who cheered for Australian teams at Commonwealth Games.
Well. We certainly have a Governor-General who may well do that with dignity, but surely, Senator, you are not seriously reducing the Constitution to questions about who is, or is not cheering at sporting matches, and for whom?
Is constitutional debate in our country to be reduced to such trivia?
Senator Vanstone later told the ABC there is no doubt The Queen will be supporting English competitors. While the Senator has learnt not to insult The Queen as she did at a meeting hosted in Peter Costello’s electorate, this claim to know what The Queen will do is as presumptuous as her claim that if the late Sir Robert Menzies were alive today, he would be a republican.
Returning to the Commonwealth Games, Chris Tinkler reported in the Herald Sun on 5 March 2006 that the opening ceremony could be thrown into chaos with tens of thousands of royalists launching into a full rendition of God Save the Queen.(“Rebels urged to sing royal anthem”).
In the previous week, the Mr. Tinkler had first revealed in the Sunday Herald Sun that the organizers had decided not to play the royal anthem at the opening ceremony, even though The Queen will launch the Games.
“The story made headlines across the world and prompted repeated calls from Prime Minister John Howard for the anthem to be played, in line with Australian protocol.
In a mini-backflip, Games Minister Justin Madden said eight bars of the anthem would be performed as part of a medley. But now the 100,000-strong crowd is being urged to take off from where the eight bars end for a barnstorming people’s version.
Even if only a third of the crowd sings the anthem, it is expected to drown out the remainder of the medley…… “
The Herald Sun said this recalled Mr. Howard’s comments when organizers of the Rugby World Cup tried to ban Waltzing Matilda from matches.
"You try and stop 82,000 Australians singing Waltzing Matilda — you’ll only make their night," Mr. Howard said at the time.
The Herald Sun reported my comment that it was to be expected that the audience would try to complete one verse of the Australian Royal Anthem.
"Having said they weren’t going to play the anthem, it seems ridiculous to then turn around and say they are going to play eight bars."
"It shows it can be done, so why can’t it be done all the way through?
"It seems perfectly understandable to me that if they stop after eight bars then the crowd should sing on right the way through.
"It would be a way of people showing that they don’t approve of others trying to muzzle them.
"And it is in line with protocol. Who could blame them? We certainly support it."
The Herald Sun reported that the National Party leader Peter Ryan had called on spectators to sing the anthem.
The solution is so simple. Just observe the agreed, bipartisan lawful protocol of this country.
Play at least one verse of the Australian Royal Anthem and Australian National Anthem.