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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1264

Senator JESSOP(9.04) —I commend Senator Durack for bringing the Flags Amendment Bill 1984 before the Senate, because I think it is an important matter. I agree with Senator Grimes that unemployment is important as well, but I always have a feeling that on occasions in Australia there seems to be a lack of national pride. A debate of this character tends to emphasise that the Australian people are capable of rising to the occasion when it comes to the suggestion that I have heard from time to time that our flag should be changed. I do not think there is anything at all wrong with the historical development of the flag and the traditional association with the United Kingdom from whence a majority of Australians emanated. I always look upon the Australian flag with a great deal of pride. I look back to the days when I was at school. At the beginning of the week we saluted the flag and pledged our loyalty to our country . These days there is a tendency to regard that as being unimportant.

Senator Durack is to be congratulated for bringing this subject before the Senate tonight, and I support what he had to say. Not only do I support it, but according to a survey conducted in May this year and reported in the Courier- Mail under the heading 'The flag should stay', 61 per cent of Australians favour keeping the existing flag, 34 per cent favour having the flag changed, and five per cent are unsure. I believe that if we had a referendum on the flag we could assess the position. I was glad to be able to give Senator Macklin a lesson in Latin this evening. Senator Grimes, who is a Latin scholar in a professional sense, will recognise that Senator Macklin realised that the lesson I was giving him was correct. He modified his language and conformed to the singular when talking about a referendum. It interests me that the Australian Democrats seem to carry out referenda on all policies associated with their programs, or so they claim. Some years ago they came into this place and said that they consult their members. I am not sure how many members are in their party, but it would not be more than 400 or 500, or thereabouts. But each time an issue arises, according to what I have been given to understand, they are supposed to have a referendum on it.

Senator Boswell —You have business of the week and you go and tick it off.

Senator JESSOP —Yes, they do that. So I was very pleased that I was able to contribute to the education of Senator Macklin with respect to the Latin language. It seems to me that there is a growing concern in Australia that the present Government has republican tendencies and wants to isolate Australia from its original ties with the United Kingdom. Of course, we are in fact for the most part independent of the United Kingdom. However, the fact that the Union Jack happens to be in the corner of our flag is an historical fact that ought to be maintained.

I heard mention of our national anthem. Some reference was made to a Scot writing Waltzing Matilda, which is quite true. I think Waltzing Matilda, if properly orchestrated, would make a very good national anthem for Australia. I think a disparaging comment was made about Song of Australia, which is very familiar to South Australians because it was written by a German migrant in South Australia called Carl Linger. So we have a Scotsman writing an Australian song called Waltzing Matilda and we have a German writing Song of Australia, which was sung regularly throughout the schools in South Australia and would have made a very satisfactory national song had it been adopted in other States. The words themselves are quite attractive.

Senator Ryan —Sing it for us. Come on.

Senator JESSOP —I have on many occasions conducted the local town choir at Port Augusta which has sung this song. However, I do not think it is permissible that I sing it to the Senate. The words are very significant. For example, the song commences with the words:

There is a land where summer skies

Are gleaming with a thousand dyes,

It is a pity that the honourable senator did not know that this German migrant had such a poetic vision of what a wonderful country Australia is. An Austrian gentleman called Henry Krips, who also migrated to Australia, wrote a patriotic song called Land of Mine. This is a very interesting and poetic song about the land of his adoption. These migrants are proud to be Australians and they recognise that our flag is significant and is worthy of national support.

It was gratifying to hear a lot of comment this evening commending the flag and expressing a wish to retain it. The Returned Services League of Australia, of course, has demonstrated its spirit of national pride by expressing its anxiety that the national flag be retained. Many of its members who came from other countries fought for our freedom. What more important section of the community should we pay regard to than the returned servicemen of Australia, who all say that they want to retain the present flag? That flag waves proudly over this Parliament House.

I, for one, can sense a spark of national pride in Senator Ryan, who has been singing something or other. I cannot recognise the tune because I hold the view that she is tone deaf with respect to national spirit or anything else. I think the credibility of the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs would benefit if she reintroduced the concept--

Senator Ryan —God Save the Queen.

Senator JESSOP —I am not talking about God Save the Queen. She should reintroduce the raising of the flag in Australian Capital Territory schools. If she suggested to the schools that the students should pledge loyalty to Australia the result could be a revival of national pride amongst the young people of Australia, which I believe is quite important. I remember that I made that comment some time ago when I addressed a gathering in Adelaide on Australia Day. The comment was published, strangely enough, in the local Press in South Australia. The next day I was required to comment on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and local commercial stations because the editor of one of the commercial stations regarded what I had said as old hat. He rubbished what I said about the need for Australia to revive some sense of national pride, some national spirit, some drive to ensure that Australia regained its competitive spirit, not only in sport but also in the international trading area. The station was flooded with calls of support for what I had to say. If Senator Ryan has any regard for public opinion, I think she would do well to consider reintroducing the saluting of the flag and the pledging of student loyalty to Australia. The honourable senator is shaking her head. She thinks that is old hat. She would rather disregard the need to foster or revive national spirit in this country, and that is about what the Labor Party's thinking is with respect to the national spirit and fervour of this country. That is one of the reasons why it will survive in government for a very short period.

In a survey carried out not long ago people were asked what government was going to be in control of Australia for the longest period over the next 30 years. Obviously the retort to that was the Liberal and National parties. The Labor Party has a history of failure. The only reason why the present Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has been successful-I believe he is the most over-rated Prime Minister Australia has ever seen-is simply that he has been following the policies of the previous Government. He has claimed responsibility for the breaking of the drought. However, he has forgotten the importance of encouraging national spirit and national pride in this country. The Prime Minister has broken most of his promises. However, the things he has introduced into Australia-the assets test, the tax on superannuation and Medicare-have been abysmal failures.

I think the Labor Government and the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, who is slightly tone deaf and sang slightly out of tune, are certainly out of tune with the spirit of the majority of the Australian people. They should regard what I have said seriously. In the national interest not only should the Australian flag be raised every week in schools throughout Australia, but also, perhaps, encouragement should be given to the Australian national song being sung as well.

Senator Grimes —Keep going.

Senator JESSOP —Unless Senator Grimes wants another Latin lesson, I conclude by again complimenting Senator Durack for having the intelligence, courage and spirit to give us the opportunity to debate this very important question.