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Wednesday, 16 May 1973
Page: 2242

Mr TURNER (Bradfield) - I want to say a few words about the national anthem for Australia. I am a fifth generation Australian and one who is as conscious of being a member of this nation as any other member of this House or this country. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) claims that he has a mandate to introduce a new national anthem of some kind. Of course he made many promises during the election campaign, and I always regard these claims about a mandate with some reserve. A Party cannot be said to have a mandate for hundreds of different promises that may be made in the course of an election campaign. That the question of a new national anthem, a matter of great consequence for the people of Australia for a long time to come, should be introduced as part of an election campaign and, one might say, really as a gimmick - because the campaign was conducted very largely on lines associated with foreign investment and in a general atmosphere of chauvinism - taints the production of a national anthem. Later, I think on 26th January of this year, before the House met the quest for a new national anthem was announced in a statement by the Prime Minister. It was not announced in a statement made in this House nor did it follow any debate in this House. The Parliament had nothing to do with it. There should have been attempts at some bipartisan approach, since this is something that should be acceptable to the whole nation and not introduced in any partisan sense. It should have been introduced after discussion in the proper way in the Parliament of this nation.

It is an irony that in a 10 minute speech on the adjournment an obscure Opposition back bencher should have to make a speech at the end of the day's business on a matter of this kind when the main object of this debate is to voice constituents' gievences and for that matter indeed, I do voice a grievance. We are to have a competition and pundits are to choose several tunes and they are to be played over the air by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and people will say which they would like to have as a national anthem. People will say: 'What do you think of that one, Mary? Rather a nice tune, isn't it'? That apparently is the way we will choose a national anthem.

The Prime Minister has made a gibe about the present national anthem being a tune chosen by George II. It was something that he liked. I can imagine the honourable gentleman saying that perhaps he showed better taste in that than in other things that he liked. Actually, 'God Save the Queen' or God Save the King' is a traditional song known long before George II had ever heard it. It is associated with thousands of great and noble occasions in the course of Britain's history, her rough island story. It is much more than some song that George II liked. It had associated with it many great and noble occasions. But that is for the British.

The 'Marseillaise' was composed as a marching song in 1792 when the French Republic which had recently been formed at the time of the revolution was fighting for its very existence against foreign invaders and particularly against the Austrians. It was composed as a marching song for the volunteers from Marseilles who took their part in throwing back those who would have destroyed the Republic. Those were the conditions in which the 'Marseillaise* was born in 1792. 'Star Spangled Banner' was composed in 1814 and was long a popular patriotic song in the United States, long before Congress enacted that it should be a national anthem as late as 1931. I imagine that it became known, particularly abroad in France, in 1918 when the Americans entered World War I.

So far as 'Waltzing Matilda' is concerned, let me say one or two words. It has, of course, rather raffish words. This is not entirely alien to the character of the Australian people, and I would not suggest that those words were appropriate for a national anthem. I want to say a word about the tune as well as the words. Wherever Australians are gathered together and are conscious of being Australians, of their sense of nationhood and of belonging together - whether they are in Damascus, Tobruk or Earls Court - there is one tune that is known not only to Australians everywhere but to people outside Australia, and that is 'Waltzing Matilda'. I remember it very well during World War II, when we were being convoyed across the Indian Ocean by the Australian cruiser 'Canberra' when 4 transports were handed over to the 'Ajax' and another British ship for convoy purposes. I can remember the Canberra' sailing down between the convoys; and what was her band playing? 'Advance Australia Fair' or some other nice tune that Mary might like? No; it was playing 'Waltzing Matilda', and I felt thrilled and proud that there were other Australians abroad, as we were, in a warlike situation.

I do not want to say any more about this except that the anthem should not be tainted by having been produced in the circumstances of a partisan political campaign. There should have been not simply an announcement but a statement in the House with an attempt at some kind of bipartisan approach to the matter of choosing a national anthem. This is a serious matter and it should not have been introduced in the way that it was. The Australian people should choose, but the pundits are going to choose for us. We have had enough of pundits and bureaucrats. Do not let them say what is a pretty tune or what is not. When the Australian Broadcasting Commission, or whoever it is, plays the various tunes with a view to the Australian people choosing, I hope that the tune chosen will be not one that has been the subject of a competition but one that has been adopted as the Marseillaise' was adopted, as the 'Star Spangled Banner' was adopted or as 'God Save the Queen' was adopted - that is, by a general consensus of the people born out of the circumstances of war or from traditions. I hope that the choice will fall upon the tune that has been accepted by Australians by consensus wherever they have been gathered together, whether inside or particularly outside this country, when they are conscious of the fact that they are Australians.

I say the same about the flag. The Australian flag is not some badge of infamy to show that we were a colony of the British rebelling against Britain. This has been the flag that has represented this country and that has been the proud emblem of those who have fought in 2 world wars. They do not see it as something that has a union jack in the corner and is therefore something of which they should be ashamed. They see it as their flag - their emblem. It has been that in 2 world wars and it still is. Wherever one sees it abroad one thinks: 'That is Australia'. We should not be ashamed of our origin. It has been said that the country that has no past has no future. We do have a past and we are proud of the fact that most of us have British origins. Most of us are proud of the fact that we inherited this institution of Parliament and that we inherited a British system of law, which is superior to any in the world.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - We speak the same language.

Mr TURNER - And we speak the same language as well. Therefore, I hope that we are not going to have foisted upon us a pretty tune that appeals to some pundits or others who choose words and a tune. I hope that we will choose something that is real, that has really been the badge of Australia and that has been accepted by Australians at home and abroad as representing them over many years.

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