Affirmation criticised by the poet who wrote it

AS PLEDGES go it is not exactly poetry, with its clunking dedication to democracy, rights, liberties and laws. Even the bard who conceived the words some 30,000 Australian citizens will proudly recite to their country on Saturday likens them to ''farting with sincerity''.

'''Ha, ha, ha' or 'Not a bad place' would be better,'' the poet Les Murray said. The act of reaffirming your loyalty was akin to Nazi Germany, the poet added. ''Why should I, the citizen, have to affirm any bloody thing towards the nation?''

More than 100 councils will host affirmation ceremonies on Australia Day for people who are already citizens. The numbers facing the national flag to take the voluntary pledge, which has no legal effect, rose 37 per cent between 2011 and 2012.

Murray will not stand among them. ''I have spent most of my life living here and taking it for granted, and I think that is a healthy way to be,'' he said.

''What is the nation feeling guilty about to force this rubbish on us? Everybody now feels like a provisional citizen; you haven't got any rights any more, only affirmations.''

The French motto of ''Liberty, equality, fraternity'' was forged in the heat of revolution. The Australian Citizenship Affirmation was in effect born over tea and cake in Taree.

The vow was derived almost entirely from the pledge of allegiance taken by new Australian citizens, which Murray helped draft in a wedding reception centre in 1992.

The Bard of Bunyah reckoned his ''rhythms and prose style'' were subsequently ruined by bureaucrats, who also excised his preferred tag line: ''I expect Australia to be loyal to me.''

The resulting citizenship pledge, which reflected more politics than poetry, was rolled out for new Australians in 1994. Affirmation ceremonies along the same lines were introduced in NSW in 1999.

Patriotic citizens are awarded a certificate for publicly affirming ''my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I uphold and obey''.

The National Australia Day chief executive, Warren Pearson, said the affirmation ''gives everyone the opportunity to stand up and express their pride in being Australian''.

Murray had a different interpretation of the wording. ''It's heavy and pompous and sort of farting with sincerity,'' he said.

''If you're born an Australian citizen or become one that should be it. They're laying too much emphasis on nationalism altogether.''

The story Affirmation criticised by the poet who wrote it first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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