Page 1177 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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Danish royal visit

MR MULCAHY: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister. I refer to recent remarks you made about Princess Mary of Denmark, a much-welcomed visitor to this city. On ABC radio last week you said:

I see something of a cultural cringe in some of the lavish praise that I don’t quite understand that has been laid at the feet of Princess Mary.

According to today’s Canberra Times, Birgitte Moltke of the Scandinavian Australian Association said:

I think he’s missed the point, he hasn’t caught on to what the public feels.

Why did you fail to exercise diplomacy in making what many people feel were highly inappropriate remarks about visitors to our city who hold important positions in another country? And will you apologise—that is, say “sorry”—for your undiplomatic remarks?

MR STANHOPE: I thank Mr Mulcahy for the question. I welcome it. I have to say that I think it is important, in the context of public debate about any issue, to start at least with the presumption that comment that is made is actually considered, discussed or debated on the basis of the context in which the comment was made.

It needs to be understood that there was a very significant speech delivered on Saturday, Canberra Day, by Mr Sandy Hollway, a notable Australian. The subject that he was asked to dwell on in the Canberra Oration—I think it was the fifth Canberra Oration; it is now an annual oration organised by the ACT Historical Society; I had the privilege of delivering the oration three years ago—was the extent to which Australia had managed, as a nation, to move through that aspect of its identity or position in the world which had, in times past, been described as the cultural cringe.

I think we all accept, as part of our history and as part of the nature of Australia, an issue that has been long debated in Australia—the issue of the extent to which Australians have been beset by, suffered from or felt the need to look up to the rest of the world—is this need to compare ourselves with those from overseas. I think a part, very much, of our convict or colonial heritage is the extent to which, for a century, we were very much a colony, a part of the broader empire, born out of a convict settlement and the extent to which our character or our national personality has been shaped by that. It is a very interesting debate, and it is a debate that I think it is important that we have.

I was asked, in the context of that speech—and I was a rapporteur—to respond, at the invitation of the society, to Mr Hollway’s speech. I was invited to do that. In that context, the ABC, knowing that I was responding to, aware of and interested in the oration, asked me, in the context of Sandy Hollway’s speech, did I believe that the cultural cringe was an issue that Australia still struggled with. I said no; in fact, we Canberrans are a community that is very sure of its place in the world; Canberrans are sure and confident of the future, of themselves and of our place in the world. We know that we can match it on the basis of any measure you care to mention.

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