- The Washington Times - Friday, March 3, 2006

Australia’s monarchists have denounced a decision not to play “God Save the Queen” at the opening of the Commonwealth Games as an ill-mannered snub to visiting Queen Elizabeth II, the country’s official head of state.

Organizers of the Games, which start in Melbourne on March 15, have ruled that Australia’s national anthem will be the only one played outside medal ceremonies.

“Advance Australia Fair” is regarded as a national joke by many Australians, who laugh at lines such as “Our home is girt by sea.” Most struggle to remember the words beyond the first verse.

The row has reinvigorated the republican debate in Australia, which rejected the idea of replacing the queen as head of state with a president in a 1999 referendum.

Prime Minister John Howard, an avowed monarchist, said it was “a matter of good manners” that “God Save the Queen” be played when the monarch opens the event.

“I think it’s appropriate in the queen’s presence,” he said. “It has got nothing to do with republicanism.”

Even officials in favor of Australia cutting the constitutional ties with Britain criticized the decision not to play the British anthem.

“How crazy is that?” asked Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone, who favors a republic.

“The only reason I can think for not doing so is because the Games’ organizers realize that to a large crowd of Australians it will seem quite anachronistic.”

Tony Abbott, the Oxford-educated health minister, said “God Save the Queen” should not only be played, but it also should be sung along to “enthusiastically.”

David Flint, the head of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, said the decision not to play “God Save the Queen” was “curious.”

“If it is not, it will be remarked on around the world,” he said. “Australia will be portrayed as rude and ill-mannered, a conclusion which can so easily be avoided.”

Justin Madden, the state minister responsible for the Commonwealth Games, said officials had checked with Buckingham Palace and thought there was no breach of protocol.

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