Kate Ceberano can sing the Anthem. But wouldn’t you rather she was given a better song instead? Picture: Wayne Ludbey
Kate Ceberano can sing the Anthem. But wouldn’t you rather she was given a better song instead? Picture: Wayne Ludbey News Corp Australia

Opinion: Our anthem sucks and we need a new one

AUSTRALIA has a terrible national anthem. I know it, you know it, and on the increasing rare occasions that our Olympians win gold medals the rest of the world knows it too.

Our national anthem is bland, and boring, and the lyrics hardly make any sense. Try dropping 'joyful strains' in conversation, and see if anybody understands what you mean.

Advance Australia Fair is such a profoundly uninspiring song that heaps of Aussies haven't even bothered to learn the words. It's time we actually advanced Australia, and got ourselves a new anthem.

All great national anthems sum up their country's ethos. The British are well served by God Save the Queen: a depressing song for a depressing race of people.

The Spanish have an anthem that captures their argumentativeness - they couldn't decide on lyrics, so their anthem doesn't have any.

The United States are rightly proud of their anthem, and constantly sing it at public events. Yet The Star Spangled Banner is also notoriously difficult to sing, with a melody that spans almost two octaves.

Could there be a more perfect symbol of American aspiration than a stadium full of people trying (and failing) to hit those high notes?

Best of all might be the Italian anthem. It announces that victory is the "slave" of Rome, boasts four consecutive times that Italians do not fear death, and then explicitly attacks other countries by name. Read into that what you will about the Italian national character.

Advance Australia Fair, however, does not depict Australians as we really are. The language is naff. What true blue Aussie would ever say a sentence like "Australians all, let us rejoice, for we are young and free"? That sort of purple prose would get you called an unprintable name at an RSL.


How good is watching your local rugby team attempting to sing our national song. Imagine how much more enthusiastic they’d be if they were singing Khe Sahn instead.
How good is watching your local rugby team attempting to sing our national song. Imagine how much more enthusiastic they’d be if they were singing Khe Sahn instead. News Corp Australia

The geographical descriptions of our country are also entirely inaccurate. We do not have "golden soil". Every satellite picture confirms that, apart from a thin green outline, 99% of the country is red sand.

"Wealth for toil" is a nice slogan, and might have been true once upon a time, but unemployment is through the roof and manufacturing has all but disappeared. "Centrelink payments for 10 job applications a fortnight" would be more precise.

It would be nice if the anthem was, at least, grounded in reality. We can't maintain our current immigration policies and claim that we've got "boundless plains to share".

So what would we use instead? Many, myself included, would love to use Waltzing Matilda. It's popular, it's catchy and it's about the ghost of a suicidal sheep thief. How Aussie's that?

Still, some stiffs out there might not think an ode to lawlessness "appropriate" for the world stage - especially when we're trying to dispel the convict stereotype.

There's no reason the song we choose should have to be an ancient one. What about Cold Chisel? Khe Sanh encapsulates both our uneasy military history, and the national pastime that is the Asian sex tour.

Alternately, Flame Trees would function as an ode to our adoptive flora and sleepy country towns. Is there any line more truly Australian than "who needs that sentimental bulls**t anyway?"

Never Tear Us Apart by INXS has spontaneously emerged as the Port Adelaide Football Club's unofficial song. Sure, it hasn't actually worked - Port got torn apart again and again in 2016 - but it's still heartwarming to hear the fans express such loving, hopeless solidarity. That's the sort of zeal our country needs.

More than anything, our anthem should be something Australians love to sing. You couldn't do better than a karaoke classic like Reckless by Australian Crawl. The words would even sort of be appropriate if you combined the first and second verses so that Burke and Wills got a mention, as well as the Manly ferry.

Australia Day is the perfect time to start a national conversation about our woeful national song. Every January, the cultural élite insist our cultural symbols be changed. For years they insisted we change the flag, ditch the "outdated" Union Jack and the "problematic" Southern Cross.

Enthusiasm for a new flag has faltered in the aftermath of New Zealand's failed referendum, so the progressives have moved on. Now, they're constantly talking about the need to change the date of Australia Day itself.

Arguments about the flag and the date might be important, but they foster a bitter and divisive public discourse. In their ostensible efforts to heal the country, activists are actually driving a wedge through its heart.

Aren't we fractured enough as a nation? Can't we have a national debate that brings us closer together? With courage, let us all combine to get ourselves an anthem we actually like.


James McCann is a writer and comedian.

Find him at jamesdonaldforbesmccann.com or follow him on Twitter @jdfmccann.

News Corp Australia

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