Australia's Magna Carta to stay put

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The Australian Parliament has celebrated the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, with Senate President Stephen Parry saying our copy won't be sold.

It could fetch a pretty penny but Australia won't be selling its copy of Magna Carta anytime soon.

The manuscript, held in Parliament House, is one of four surviving originals of the 1297 issue.

Celebrating the 800th anniversary on Monday, Senate President Stephen Parry described it as a treasured piece, noting another original changed hands in the US for a price of more than $30 million.

"Please leave this place in the sure knowledge ... we won't be selling ours," he told a gathering in parliament's Great Hall.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott described the document as perhaps the most important of all time.

The 1952 acquisition of Australia's copy was shrouded in controversy at the time, "as most good things are" he said.

Then prime minister Robert Menzies offered the full asking price of 12,500 pounds and not everyone thought spending that much on a piece of old parchment was a good investment.

Mr Abbott suggested it was Menzies' own Blue Poles moment," likening it to Gough Whitlam's purchase of the 1952 Jackson Pollock painting for $1.3 million in 1973.

Long-serving Labor MP Clyde Cameron, who was a minister in the Whitlam government, believed the money could have been better spent sending a copy of Magna Carta to every school child in the commonwealth.

Instead of a copy, students from Boggabri Public School were given a commemorative coin from the Australian Mint on Monday, after they travelled more than 700km to Parliament House.

"We do give Australia's schoolchildren and indeed our future leaders a chance to savour this document and this moment in history," Mr Abbott said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten saluted the document as a "flickering candle, compass, a guiding star".

Speaker Bronwyn Bishop said the great charter showed that "even the mightiest should be subject to the law".

Since then Australia has made the Westminster system of government very much its own.

"We are OzMinster," she said.

Source AAP

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