January 26th, 2011 at 06:11am
It seems that every year, without fail, around Australia Day a national discussion starts on one or more of these topics and that, every year, without fail, the same arguments are trotted out. Some people want us to change our national anthem, some people want a new flag and some want to sever ties with the Monarchy. All of the proposed changes seem to tie back to a dislike of the Monarchy…and I keep wondering why.
At the moment we have a system which works. We are governed by our elected governments of various jurisdictions with the aide of a bunch of people who sign bits of paper generated by and for the people we elect. In essence, the only negative effect of our Monarchy is that we pay a whole heap of people to do little more than sign papers, drink tea, and keep a porch light on in case the Prime Minister decides to pop in for a visit. This may be wasteful, but no more so (and in fact far less) than the overt extravagance of our public service. But the arguments against the Monarchy were never really economic ones so we’ll let this one slide.
Perhaps it’s the seemingly widely held fear of having Charles as the future king, but he would have no more influence than his mother does, so unless the fear is of seeing him on coins, I don’t see the problem here either.
Admittedly I prefer the model of the republic used by the United States over the model of our Monarchy, but I don’t think it would work here. For one thing I don’t think it can work particularly well without a larger population and at least double our current number of states, and apart from that I don’t think enough Australians are politically interested enough for a system which contains an elected head of state to be workable. That’s not to say that Australians are uninterested in politics, just that not enough people seem to be interested enough to deal with the differences between the House of Reps and the Senate half the time, let alone another arm of the government.
As such, we have a system which works well enough for us and is in no real need of change, so I see no good reason to change, and with a change to our system of government out of the question, the cases for changing our national flag or anthem are dealt serious blows, albeit not fatal.
There are a couple main reasons left for changing the flag. The first, somewhat left over from a change of government system, is that if we’re not really under the control of the Monarch, we shouldn’t bear her mark (the Union Jack). Well that’s just absurd. The Union Jack does not brand us as being a part of the United Kingdom…it is a sign of our heritage, of the beginnings of our nation. Much like the Southern Cross marks our bit of the sky and therefore our bit of the planet, and Union Jack is a representation of our start as a nation. It is an important reminder of our heritage.
The other main notion is that the flag should be more representative of Aboriginal people. There is also the occasional mention of our flag being “ugly”, but when you dig in to that argument it tends to be nothing more than a lead-in to the “not representative of Aborigines” argument (and when it comes to ugly flags, have you seen the Aboriginal flag?). This whole argument is easily sorted. Aborigines are citizens of this country and our existing flag is the symbol of the country. Simple. Apart from that, Aborigines have their own flag which, although I can’t fathom what precisely they need it for, it exists in a similar way to the flags of the states and territories, as a symbol of something within the nation. These flags all live under the greater banner of our national flag which represents them all on the international stage.
So the flag doesn’t need to change, and we reach the national anthem.
We’ve already changed it once. Originally we had “God Save The King/Queen”, and now given the lack of influence on us a nation from the Monarch, we have the more apt “Advance Australia Fair”. For some reason, despite the fact that this song has nothing whatsoever to do with Her Majesty, some still argue that if we change the flag or the political system, then we should change the anthem as well. If they dislike the country so much, maybe they should find somewhere else to live, rather than expecting the rest of us to subscribe to their deranged “oh look, that person over there changed the colour of their roof, I’d better change the plants in my garden to match” logic.
Then there’s the other argument, that the song isn’t very interesting and we’d be better off with something like Waltzing Matilda. Waltzing Matilda is a nice song, but do we really want our national anthem to be a song about theft, a lack of willingness to “do the time for the crime” and suicide? I certainly don’t, and I don’t much care if the rest of the world won’t understand half the words of the song as it really doesn’t change a thing…it’s not a suitable song to officially represent our nation.
And anyway, what’s wrong with Advance Australia Fair? It’s a lovely song which talks about Australia with pride. There is nothing wrong with it. It’s a perfect song for a national anthem.
There is one change that I would make though, and that is in relation to the national anthem. It is my view that we do not hear enough of the national anthem and, as such, the one change I would make would be the mandating of the daily airing of the national anthem by all broadcast media.
To prevent it from being buried in the wee hours I would also mandate that the daily playing of the anthem occur between the hours of 6am and midnight, and it would have to be a legible and faithful performance or playing so as to prevent a distasteful mockery of the anthem which would inevitably happen if the anthem’s daily airing was embedded in a comedy program, but other than that I would not set rules about how or when it should be aired. For example, it would be entirely up to the broadcaster as to whether they would have set daily time for the anthem or just play it when the feel like it, and it would be up to them whether they choose to let advertisers sponsor the anthem. I think it would be quite an honour to be the local business which presents the playing of the national anthem on a given day.
But other than having the national anthem played more than it currently is, I see no good reason to change our current system of government, flag or national anthem. They all serve to make the identity of our nation and work very well together. We should be proud, and whilst occasional debate of these topics is healthy, the incessant annual discussion about them for no good reason is pointless and degrading…especially when it keeps happening at this time of the year, on a day when we should all be very proud of our great country, not doing our best to run down our country in the hopes of needlessly and pointlessly changing bits of it.
Happy Australia Day!