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Australia worries over "crazy" Games anthem snub

Written by: Staff
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SYDNEY, March 2 (Reuters) To her loyal subjects she may be victorious, happy and glorious, but Britain's Queen Elizabeth won't have her praises sung when she opens the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Senior Australian government ministers, including republicans who want her replaced as Australia's head of state, suggested Games organisers were being bad sports with their decision not to play ''God Save the Queen'' at the Games held in her honour.

''I have absolutely no difficulty myself with the playing of 'God Save the Queen' in the presence of Her Majesty, I think it's appropriate in the Queen's presence,'' Prime Minister John Howard, an avowed monarchist, said today.

''It's just a matter of good manners,'' he said, adding that the royal anthem would be played when he hosts the Queen at a state dinner in Canberra this month.

Complaints have risen after Games organisers said the Australian national anthem, ''Advance Australia Fair'', would be the only one played, outside of medals ceremonies, at the March 15-26 event for the group of 53 mostly former British colonies.

Even Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone, who differs with Howard in favouring a republic, thought that the Queen's praises should be sung at the Games in Melbourne.

''How crazy is that?'' Vanstone told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

''She is the Queen of Australia, she's coming to Australia on one of her rarer visits, and I think it's appropriate that we show due respect and play 'God Save the Queen','' she said.

Australians narrowly rejected a model for a republic in a 1999 referendum, and the anthem dispute has rekindled debate over whether Australia should cut its 218-year ties with Britain and become a republic with a home-grown president.

While Australian monarchists regard the decision as a snub, Howard and Games organisers said it was normal practice that only the host nation's anthem is played at official Commonwealth Games events such as the opening and closing ceremonies.

Justin Madden, the Victoria state minister responsible for the Games, said organisers had checked with the Queen's protocol office and believed there was no breach.

Australia's anthem, chosen in 1984 over several popular folk ballads, is often criticised for being bland and uninspiring. Australians often joke about its puzzling line, ''Our land is girt by sea'', and their inability to sing beyond the first verse.

REUTERS KD SP1026

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