28 January 2008

Australia Day

Australia Day fell on Saturday, when it was commemorated in many ways and in many places throughout the country. Monday was a public holiday, a second bite of the Australia Day cherry without many of the formalities.

I was at the Test on Saturday (in fact on all five days) and was interested to see that a public citizenship ceremony was conducted during the cricket lunch interval. The MC was Mr Tom Georganas, Federal ALP MP for Hindmarsh; also present were Ms Kate Ellis, Federal Minister for Youth and Sport, and Dr Jane Lomax Smith, State Education Minister. After the singing of the national anthem (for the second time in three days, this time by a young woman who pronounced the first word of the title "Advarnce " which we in SA prefer to the Eastern staters' short a-ed "Advants"), the citizenship ceremony took place.

Then Mr Georganas invited those Australians present (by no means all the crowd, as many were lunching elsewhere) to participate in a "voluntary" re-affirmation of their loyalty to Australia. He explained that doing so would have no legal effect, but I wondered whether this is setting a precedent for future sporting and other events.

In the Fin Review last weekend Mark Latham's piece "Aussie Aussie Aussie - shush, shush, shush" (p 90, not online but summarised here) lamented "the squeezing the fun and irreverence out of the Australian way of life":

A day at the cricket, one of our great national sporting institutions, is indicative of this process. There are now more than 230 security cameras at the SCG targeting large groups of spectators and people in "unusual costumes". Even the security officers have admitted that it resembles a scene from Big Brother. They are relentless in their surveillance, looking for "anyone turning their heads from the game - they are usually guilty of something."

Will it be long before the security cameras begin identifying those who turn their heads away from official ceremonies, or perhaps even don't join in with sufficient gusto? I pondered this as I continued to eat my lunch during the reaffirmation. Most of those around me did likewise but, as Latham and Rex Jory, writing in similar vein in The Advertiser/Adelaide Now on Tuesday, implied, who knows how this might develop? At least I know Don Bradman's average.


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