Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1259

Senator MARTIN(8.35) —Mr Deputy President, I shall be brief. There is a saying that when rape is inevitable, you might as well relax and enjoy it. It would not be fair to say that the speech of the Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, should necessarily be summed up like that, but I could just extract the word 'relax'. It was one of his more laid back speeches and he was saying: 'Relax, what is the fuss about?' I have a reason for concern. It is a concern that goes back some time, and I hope Senator Grimes listens to my concern because it relates to actions of Ministers in his Government about which he is probably unaware.

For some time I have had an active interest in the subject of national symbols, going back several years into the time of the Fraser Goverment. After the referendum of 1977 when a majority of voters-not a majority of people, I might say, but around 40 per cent of the vote-did vote for Advance Australia Fair as the national tune, I took up with the Government the subject of the national anthem. There was some confusion following that referendum on what people had actually voted for. I regret that I do not have with me in Canberra this week the correspondence that relates to that. It goes back some time and I am perfectly willing to make it available next week if anyone wants to dispute my recollection of the facts. My recollection of the facts is that the subject of the national anthem went off to an inter-departmental committee, which I will admit is a good way of doing nothing.

However, my interest did not die when the Hawke Government was elected. Shortly after that election I wrote to the relevant Minister, asking what was happening about the national anthem and what were the Government's intentions on the subject. I have a series of letters on the subject signed by Mr Kim Beazley. What I got were fob-offs and the word 'relax'. Senator Grimes said tonight that this matter is way down on his agenda of what is important to this Government. That is what Mr Beazley said to me in answer to all the letters that I wrote to him on the subject of the national anthem. He said it was way down the agenda, that the Government would be looking at it in due course but it did not consider it to be significant. Then, bang out of the blue, we had an announcement: Advance Australia Fair, with some amended words, was the national anthem. I do not give a fig for Senator Grimes standing here and saying it is way down the agenda because I have gone down that track with the Hawke Government and its word on the subject is not worth two bob. It just says to relax.

It is a bit like the Citizenship Amendment Bill, about which I asked a question this week. It is five months since that Bill came into the Senate and we have had two hours debate on one critical section in it-the removal of the requirement to swear allegiance to the Queen. For five months Senator Grimes, the Minister who represents in this place the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West), has been very relaxed about that Bill. There is no earthly reason why we should not have debated that Bill and voted on that clause . Senator Grimes says it is on the list of Bills for this week and indeed it is. It is the very last one listed and any government knows that the last Bill listed for a week is unlikely to get on that week. This is particularly significant when one looks at the Bills listed ahead of it. That is the citizenship Bill, and the oath of allegiance to the Queen. I have told the Senate how relaxed the Government was about the anthem and then, out of the blue , the change came. Then we had the colours changed. Senator Grimes said some interesting things about that. I have been interested in the colours, too.

I agreed to be a Vice-President of an organisation called Ausflag, an organisation represented to me as being interested in national symbols-the flag, the anthem and the colours. I made it very clear when the approach was made to me that I was committed to the present flag; however, if a majority of Australians voted for a different design I would accept the rules of democracy, but until that happened I was committed to the present flag. On those conditions I went into Ausflag. In the entire time during which I was a member of Ausflag it paid no attention to the subject of colours or the anthem. The Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Walsh, who is in the chamber, made-I shall watch my language-a smart-Alick comment in the Senate one day in reponse to a question which Senator Bjelke-Petersen asked in relation to the dollar coin and whether the Queen's image would be on it. While Senator Walsh was answering I walked out and resigned from Ausflag because he misrepresented my position. He had no idea why I was a member of Ausflag but he chose, in answer to that question, to try to make a phoney division between Senator Bjelke-Petersen and me. I did not announce it publicly. I have never given a reason until tonight for resigning from Ausflag because I would not have my views in relation to the flag misrepresented, and certainly not by the likes of Senator Walsh.

However, three months later Mr Hurford, another Minister of this Government, saw fit to give a Press interview in which he said that I had been subjected to political pressure by the Liberal Party. I denied that, but I did not give the reasons. The reasons were that Ausflag was a 'change the flag' organisation and nothing else and my other interests were not being taken any notice of. After my resignation Ausflag turned its attention to a couple of other things. I will come back to Ausflag because there is a matter in relation to that that I find curious in the context of a totally non-credible case put by the Government on the subject of its intentions on the flag.

The Minister for Social Security, after being terribly laid back and relaxed about the flag-just as Mr Beazley was so laid back and relaxed on the subject of the national anthem until for some reason which I am sure Mr Beazley could never give, it was changed-said that the late Sir Robert Menzies changed the colour several times and it was nonsense to perpetuate the farce that our colours were blue and gold. Nobody changed the colours. Until the Hawke Government declared our sporting colours, green and gold, to be the national colours we had unofficial colours. Tradition has it that the colours on the scroll on the Australian crest are our national colours unless other colours are decreed. The other colours were, of course, decreed. The colours on that scroll were blue and gold. It is no accident that the Australian Tourist Commission, which sells tourism to Australia overseas, and the Australian Bicentennial Authority have logos in blue and gold. It is no accident that national bodies, Australian government bodies, have logos in blue and gold. It was because that was the requirement. They were considered to be our national colours until such time as the Government decreed otherwise. Out of the blue-this is another subject about which the Government was extremely relaxed-colours were green and gold. What is the significance of that? I might say that I obtained most of this information during my experience with Ausflag.

There is a tradition in heraldry that if a country has official colours they are the colours used on the flag. The colours used on our flag are red, white and blue. There was no conflict in that principle so long as blue and gold had not been decreed by the Government as the official colours. Now the colours have been decreed as green and gold, appalling colours, I might say, for a flag, and my authority on that is Sir James Hardy who has been pronounced an authority on some other matters this evening. We have official colours. And have a flag that is red, white and blue. It was always in my mind that there was a possibility with the present flag. A couple of months ago Woolworths, I think, sent us all a poster depicting all the flags that had ever been used in Australia for one reason or another. There was a flag used by an organisation called the Australasian Anti-Transportation League back in the mid-nineteenth century, which was almost the same as our present flag. The only thing missing was the Federation star. It had the Union Jack and the colours were red, white and blue. It has a blue background and the Southern Cross was in gold. It is a beautiful flag.

It was always possible, if people wanted to distinguish between New Zealand's flag-there are some significant differences between our flag and that of New Zealand-to just change the colour of the stars to gold, which would have made it a distinctive flag. Presently it is a beautiful and distinctive flag. It worries me not at all that New Zealand has a flag like it. I never knew what the New Zealand flag looked like until I saw it at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. It did not trouble me that I did not know what the New Zealand flag looked like because I would have recognised about four of the flags used at the Commonwealth Games, and they were those of British Commonwealth countries. All that mattered to me was that I recognised the Australian flag, and I think that is all that matters to Australians.

Let me get back to the colours. The present flag cannot be translated into green and gold. It cannot be done. There is no difficulty at all in mounting an argument that we need a new flag because the present flag cannot be translated into green and gold. Blue and gold would have been an easy adaption. Why did the Government not make it blue and gold? If it was necessary for us to have official colours why were they not blue and gold? I asked a question of the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) in this place about the cost to organisations, such as the Australian Tourist Commission and the Bicentennial Authority, of changing the colours given that they would have to change their logo and everything on which it appeared. I asked whether the Government has sought this information before making the decision and, if so, what was the cost . Senator Evans treated my question with the usual sort of contempt with which he treats any question to which he does not know the answer. In due course the answer came that the Government had not considered the cost and, yes, it is considerable to the Bicentennial Authority and the Tourist Commission to change the colours. The Government had not looked at any of those implications. It had another reason for making the colours green and gold. I just do not see why they are better.

Green and gold are our sporting colours. There is no problem with having sporting colours different from national colours. I for one was very surprised when the Australian athletes marched on to the oval at the Commonwealth Games wearing blue and white. I would have thought, as all my colleagues who were around me thought, that it would be green and gold, but they were not official sporting colours. It is tradition that we use green and gold. So we were not that closely linked into the colours green and gold. Over a number of years there has been a sporting tradition. I see no difficulty with a sporting flag. If one wants to have the boxing kangaroo-if that is one's feelings about sport; putting on the gloves-I say have it, but I would hate to see a kangaroo on our flag. But that is my view. If the people are given a choice and they vote for a kangaroo I will take it on the chin, but that is my view.

Senator Grimes has said that the Government will support the legislation. Well it might. It could have no possible reason for opposing it. But the Minister cannot be so scornful about the reasons for concern in the community-regarding the removal of reference to the Queen from the oath of allegiance, changing the national colours without any consultation with anyone, even those bodies who were tied financially to the previous national colours, and a fob off to anyone who wanted to ask about the anthem.

Last but not least I raise the subject of the anthem. I used to give out to groups a cassette which had on one side Advance Australia Fair and on the other God Save the Queen. That cassette came into being during the time of the Fraser Government. With no announcement, no warning-nothing-we now have a cassette courtesy of the Government that has Advance Australia Fair on both sides. Why was there no announcement? I say to Senator Grimes: Why, indeed, would Opposition senators not be feeling a little cautious about the intentions of the Government? I saw one newspaper story on this matter in the Australian otherwise I would not have known it happened. I get these cassettes and give them to people. I do not play them before hand. I present them in good faith.

I think the real concern relates to the fact that God Save the Queen to be played only in the presence of royalty. What is the situation with regard to the Governor of a State and the Governor-General? I always understood they were regarded as the monarch in the absence of the monarch. So if a State Governor is present at a function we should pay to him the courtesies we pay to the monarch. If the Governor-General is present we should pay to him the courtesies that are due to the monarch. I believe that if the Government had said that Advance Australia Fair was for non-vice-regal occasions and God Save the Queen was for vice-regal and royal occasions a lot of the sting would have been taken out of the matter. I think that the decision was never explained for the same reason that God Save the Queen is no longer on the cassettes we give out. That song will be played so infrequently that it will reduce in significance to new generations of Australians.

I come back finally to the subject of Ausflag. A feature article by Ron Saw, feature writer for the Bulletin and now President of Ausflag since Sir James Hardy resigned, was printed in the Bulletin on 1 May this year. This statement appears:

The Ausflag plan is that the new flag will be the result of the co-operation of the nation's three top designing bodies: the Design Arts Committee of the Australian Council, the Design Institute of Australia and the Industrial Design Council of Australia, and that prizes will total $100,000.

It would be quite wrong of me to reveal here in the Senate the knowledge I have of Ausflag's finances as at the time I resigned, but I was astounded when I read that there would be a prize of $100,000. I would like to ask the next Government speaker to assure the Senate that that is not $100,000 of public funds and that there has been no indication to this totally unofficial body of financial support for plans to come up with new designs for the flag. I guess the reason I shook in my shoes when I read that statement was the history of the behaviour of this Government on the subject of national symbols. The Bill certainly deserves support. The Government deserves no support at all in the way in which it has treated this matter.

Senator Grimes spoke scornfully about the number of speakers on certain Bills. He knows very well agreements are entered into on certain Bills. This week in the Senate he said: 'We will get the citizenship Bill through and voted on provided you do not talk too long'. So on these subjects which are of basic importance to many people we are to shut up and put up. We will not do so because I know from my experience in the electorate that the reservations and worries we express in this debate are reservations and worries that many ordinary Australians have. Certainly, we will talk about unemployment and tax on occasions, and we will talk about the assets test too. I know that bores Senator Grimes now, but we shall also talk about these other issues which are of concern to ordinary Australians and we will not be bluffed, on the grounds of time, out of talking on them. I say to the Government that if it has brought itself unnecessary worry and trouble on this subject, as it claims, it has only itself to blame. A greater demonstration of bona fides on all the subjects I have covered in my speech might have saved much of the Senate's time.