The short answer to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s endorsement last week of the move by the Recognition in Anthem Project to tweak the words of the national anthem from “for we are young and free” to “for we are one and free” is: “yes, yes, yes, of course, yes!”
The project was started by a fellow called Peter Vickery, and Bob Hawke had agreed to be its patron not long before he became ill and died. I first met Mr Vickery early in 2017, and he and his supporters have been busy in the time since, pushing the plan.
“I love our national anthem,” Ms Berejiklian said on Wednesday, getting behind it. “I get goose bumps every time I hear it sung or played, but I think one word change will make such a difference ... I believe singing we are ‘one’ and free rather than ‘young’ and free will acknowledge our proud Indigenous history.”
I agree entirely, though suspect she is one of the few to get goose-bumps for an anthem whose chief virtue has always been that it is not God Save the Queen.
Ideally we will soon move to the song that really does get people pumped up, including your correspondent: I Am Australian, with the wonderful refrain, “I am, you are, we are Australian...”
So let’s tweak it in the meantime. And while we are at it, we might come up with a different word to “girt”. (Cue Vince Sorrenti’s famous line: “Who uses the word ‘girt’? Did you ever hear the police say, Come out with your hands up, we have you girt!’?”)
Nats held back
Here's to – and I mean this – the heroes in the Liberal Party in the NSW upper house who this week have managed to hold off the outrageous attempted amendment to the Land Services Act being driven by John Barilaro’s National Party to make land-clearing easier in this state. I refer specifically to Catherine Cusack, who is leading the push, ready to cross the floor, and who told me yesterday, “I sent a message to Premier last week saying I couldn’t support it if goes ahead.” Due to pass on Thursday, it has now been pushed to next Tuesday, to give us all time to breathe.
If approved, it removes koala protection on private property – significant as two-thirds of koalas live on private property – enables millions of hectares to be cleared/logged and removes the ability of local councils to prohibit clearing/logging or other “allowable activities” in environmental zones, while also increases logging approvals from 15 to 30 years.
In sum, it would be nothing less than an environmental catastrophe, driven by a man who, as discussed, refers to koalas as “tree rats”.
Despite the insanity of it, the legislation has passed the Legislative Assembly, and would have gotten through the Upper House on Thursday if not for some of the Libs threatening to cross the floor. The Nationals are carpet-biting mad about it, which is too bad.
And yes, the Nats assert the landowners should be able to do this because it is their “right” to do with their own land whatever they like. No, it is not their right. If a stream passes through my property, do I have a right to dump waste in it so that everyone downstream will have polluted water? Obviously not. Well, that’s the situation we are in. As a state, as a country, and as a planet we must stop knocking over trees! And yes, the tragic truth is that many trees are worth more dead than alive, which sees the economic imperative to bowl them over. But that is where a sane government must step in for the greater good and have legislation which prevents such insane destruction of our environment, not enable it.
Gladys, on a good day – I am told – gets it. But right now she has been so distracted by the former Member for Dodgy, the pandemic and the resultant economic wobbles that she has let this get away from her. Hence the move by the smart and brave Libs in the Upper House to hold the Nats off until she can get back on top of this.
Upbeat news of the week
Despite that sense of end-of-days that seems to come with the evening news lately – the plague, the lockdowns, Trump being Trump – the hit musical Hamilton is still on its way from its stunning run in New York and still on course to open in Sydney Town on March 27. After the announcement of the Australian cast last Monday, I talked to Michael Cassell, the impresario who is bringing it all together, and he spoke sagely of the challenges of preparing such a musical in the age of COVID, and with joy how it is all coming together now.
“Ahead of the announcement,” he says, “we gathered the cast over Zoom for the very first time to introduce each other last Saturday morning. It was one of the most exciting things to be involved in 2020 ... It was a highly enthusiastic and emotional meeting with our cast literally dialling in from all corners of the country. Meanwhile, costumes, shoes and wigs are being built and measured at our workshops over in Leichhardt. We have some members of the costume team with us but the majority of the design team are joining us each day (at ungodly hours) from New York!”
Interestingly, word has spread, and already more than 25 per cent of ticket sales have gone to Victorians, which makes it a great driver of domestic tourism in Sydney Town. Another 70k tickets go on sale this week. I repeat: it is the best musical I have ever seen, and I have seen it five times.
In the meantime
Meantime, the best line of the week goes to one Anne Remy, an American writer, who noted on Twitter – in the face of President Donald Trump’s outrageous refusal to honour the will of the people – a pearl for the ages. “It’s not actually a coup,” she observed, “unless it comes from the coup d'état region of France. Otherwise it’s just a sparkling authoritarian takeover.”
Joke of the week
A man and his wife are dining at a plush restaurant, and the husband keeps staring at a drunken woman swigging her drink as she sits alone at a nearby table. Noticing this, his wife asks, ''Do you know her?''
''Yes,'' sighs the husband. ''She’s my ex-girlfriend. I understand she took to drinking right after we split up seven years ago and I hear she hasn’t been sober since.''
''Goodness gracious!'' says the wife. ''Who would think a person could go on celebrating that long?''
What They Said
“The Secret Service would escort him off, they would treat him like any old man who’d wandered on the property.” An un-named former US official, previously involved in the transition from President Obama to Trump, if the latter refuses to leave on January 20.
“There is an epidemic of delusion that is spreading out from the White House and infecting the entire Republican Party in the wake of this election. President Trump didn't win the election. Every single one of my colleagues knows this.” Democrat Senator Chris Murphy, said in a Senate speech.
“Look, given I’m a ranga, I’ve always looked after my skin ... I am outside a lot, but I am aware of the dangers with being a redhead and the sun. It just shows you can’t be too careful. Go and get your skin checked, even if you think it couldn’t be a cancer and even if you are being careful.” Paul Vautin, who recently found he had skin cancer on his face. He is using a chemo-type skin cream.
“I think they give the lie to the notion that there's no problem with the current system, 'nothing's broken therefore why do we need to change?' They show quite clearly that matters of the highest political order were being discussed, secret from the government of the day, between a governor-general and the palace in a way that's totally antithetical both to democratic governance and to the supposed political neutrality and non-involvement of the crown. And it's a situation that no self-respecting nation could allow to continue.” Jenny Hocking, who fought for the release of the Palace letters – about 1200 pages of once-secret correspondence between Governor-General Sir John Kerr and Sir Martin Charteris, Queen Elizabeth's private secretary, in the mid-1970s, leading up to the Dismissal.
“My agent called and said I should probably sit down – and obviously it being 2020, with COVID and everything happening I thought it had something to do with that. Then he said they wanted me to play Alexander Hamilton and I think I was speechless for about 10 minutes. In many ways I am still completely speechless. I hung up the phone and emptied the dishwasher.” Jason Arrow on getting one of the most coveted roles in theatre at the moment.
“Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country.” Former president George W Bush – one of the last two men left standing in the Republican Party as a wise voice of base-level decency – congratulating Joe Biden on winning the election.
“What a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his vice president. But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” Kamala Harris on becoming Vice-President Elect.
“When you have written a song and perform a song you just hope people listen to it. I am glad that I was among the first people that opened up about that and began that conversation.” Archie Roach, about being inducted into the ARIA hall of fame at the ARIA Awards on November 25. He is credited with playing a major role in the conversation around reconciliation.
“I believe the bonk ban was never a bonk ban, it was a Barnaby ban. It was created ... to remove me from office.” Barnaby Joyce, bringing it all back to Barnaby.
“Floor cleaners are little more than perfume for your floor. If you want your floors clean you can just use a plain old bucket of hot water. Save your money.” Choice testing expert Ashley Iredale as the latest Shonky awards came out.
“For we are one and free.” Gladys Berejiklian’s suggestion for a change in the national anthem to reflect the many thousands of years of Indigenous culture.
“I just think it’s an embarrassment, quite frankly. The only thing that – how can I say this tactfully – I think it will not help the president’s legacy.” President-Elect Joe Biden on Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge defeat.
“I can’t remember what I did last week, let alone what I did two years ago.” Premier Gladys Berejiklian in Question Time on Wednesday, seriously asking the public to believe she cannot remember whether she did or did not attend an “intimate fundraising dinner” at Club Taree in May 2018, which Labor claims saw illegal donations made from property developers.
Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.