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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 4392


Mr TURNER (Bradfield) - I think it is time that the House, or what there is of it, came back to the actual terms of the motion. The motion deals, first, with the question of the means whereby we should decide on a national anthem. The motion advocates that this should be done by a total vote of the Australian people, in other words,, by a referendum. Should it be done by a referendum or by a survey? The second point involved in the motion is that among the alternative anthems included for the decision of the Australian people should be 'God Save the Queen'. If a national anthem is not a symbol of the unity of the nation, it is absolutely nothing. This matter could not have been dealt with in a more divisive fashion than it has been dealt with by the Government, so much so that in the end, whatever the choice is, it might not be acceptable to the bulk of the people.

What is the difference between a referendum and a survey? There are 2 great differences. One is that a referendum is subject to debate. People have to think and make up their own minds about it. A referendum is very different from a survey of people who have never thought about the matter at all. A referendum means debate, thought and deliberate decision of the people. That is the first thing about a referendum.

The second thing about a referendum on a national anthem is that it is a matter of considerable emotional content to people and they must feel committed to the decision. However, they will not feel committed to a survey carried out by the Bureau of Census and Statistics. A survey has nothing to do with emotion, whereas the choice of a national anthem is a matter of great emotion to the people. What is the basis for this move? Was it contained in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam)? It was not. Has it been the subject of parliamentary debate? It would not have been, except for the initiative of the honourable member for Warringah (Mr Mackellar).

Now we are going to be told that the choice is to be limited by a ukase of the Prime Minister. We are told that there shall be no choice of 'God Save the Queen'. The argument put up on the Government side by these 2 prime comedians is: 'How shall we know what alternatives to give the people?' The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has been very funny about this matter but, Mr Deputy Speaker, can anyone say that the anthem which we have had for 200 years is to be treated in the same fashion as any suggestion, humourous or otherwise, that may be put up?

The departure from what has happened for 200 years is a matter of enormous consequence and there could be not doubt in the mind of any sensible person that 'God Save the Queen' should be one of the choices for the Australian people. The argument from Government supporters is an indication of the paucity of argument that can be put to the motion. I do not have time enough to deal with this matter as I would like to deal with it, but I say that the way in which anthems have emerged in the past has not been through a survey conducted by a bureau of statistics or in the divisive fashion the Prime Minister has adopted. Anthems have emerged in a natural fashion. 'God Save the King' or 'God Save the Queen' may indeed have been the choice of George II. If that is so, he chose a pretty good tune, anyway, and I would not substitute that choice with the Prime Minister's choice, nor do I think that half the Australian people would substitute that choice.

Regarding the 'Marsellaise', as has already been said, it arose from the circumstances of the French Revolution. It was composed by an artillery officer in a French division from Marseilles fighting against the invaders of France after the Revolution. The Star Spangled Banner emerged long before it was ever given legislative approval. It was given legislative approval in the last 20 or 30 years, I think, whereas the song had been accepted by the American people for perhaps well over a century. Similarly, the question of whether God Save the King' arose at the time of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion does not matter in the slightest degree. What matters is that for 200 years it has been our national anthem, and accepted by the people as such. I refer to the colonies into which this nation was finally formed. One cannot say that the nation was formed 70 years ago. The Australian people in their colonies and since Federation as well have accepted 'God Save the Queen' for 200 years. To say that 'God Save the Queen' should not 'be included as a choice, because we do not know who composed it or because some of the words may be silly, is meaningless. God Save the Queen' is established, and it should not be disestablished except by a vote of the Australian people.

Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:

That the question be now put.

Question put:

That the motion (Mr MacKellar's) be agreed to.







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