Our beloved Australian Flag remains under attack by a small minority of republican flag changers.
Without a mandate, and notwithstanding their landslide defeat in 1999, the republicans are in the process of removing all symbols of the Australian Crown - an institution they see as a constraint on republican politicians.
The republican newspaper The Age says that since everyone knows the Flag will change after some unknown (politicians’) republic is adopted, the Australian Flag should be changed now.
Leading republicans opened a major campaign aginst the flag which culminated in a programme on national television on the eve of ANZAC Day, 2010. In a subsequent official inquiry this campaign was ruled to be misleading.
The principal feature of Australia Day 2011 was the endorsement of flag and constitutional change by those chosen as Australians of the Year by the politicians’ Australia Day committees.
The republican flag changers deliberately ran dead during the 1999 republican referendum campaign to assist the republican case, although the republican movement had earlier endorsed an exhibition of new flags to coincide with the 1998 Constitutional Convention as well as a touring exhibition . Most of these proposed new flags were of the beach towel variety with one proposed flag which can only be described as obscenity, and a gross one at that.
Republicans argue that three established facts about our Flag are untrue.
First that Australian Flag was adopted after an open public competition with very wide participation and support which was concluded under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia;
Second that there was never any requirement that our Flag include the Union Jack,and
Third, that it is the Flag under which Australians have served and died.
All are absolutely true. And Australians overwhelmingly love their beloved Australian Flag.
Republicans long opposed any requirement for a vote by the people on any change being inserted in the Flag Act or into the Constitution. They were especially annoyed when Parliament did this, and especially by the requirement that in any vote, the existing Flag be included for consideration.
(Most federal republican politicians had to go along with this reluctantly when they realised the changes would pass both houses – they did not want to be on the record opposing this , although previously they planned a change to take effect before 2000 without any vote by the people.)
A group of prominent republicans continues to campaign for a new flag. They have been careful to ensure none hold office in the republican movement, no doubt to give the impression the two campaigns are entirley separate. There can be little doubt that were a politicians' republic to be imposed, the Flag would be next in line.
Here's a splendid defence of our flag by our young executive director Jai Martinkovits in the Australia Day edition of the Dubbo Weekender:
If there is one thing that unites Australians young and old, it’s a love of their Flag and all that it represents.
In fact, in a recent poll, Roy Morgan Research put support among the youngest age group, 14 to 17, as high as 80%, with 7% undecided. And support across all age brackets was found to be 69%, with 5% undecided.
This weekend, Aussies right across the country are celebrating our national birthday – Australia Day. As well as appreciating a good excuse for a holiday, Aussies will take a moment to reflect on our glorious way of life, which so many of our forebears fought and died to protect.
It has been said that the success of any nation – or, shall we say, it’s way of life – is dependent upon the quality of its institutions. And it’s those very institutions and values which have so clearly allowed our nation to prosper, which are encapsulated in our National Flag of “Stars and Crosses”.
It is truly the people’s Flag – proudly adopted in 1901 following the results of a public competition, which attracted more than 32,000 entries.
On 30 May 2014 they gave their aside a full page for their current chief Republican strategist Rhys Muldoon piece to editorialise on the gist of the current Republican campaign.This no doubt represents the views of the broadsheets.
He wrote: ''Yet I, for one, think it wise to hold off on debate over the flag. While I think our flag is very attractive, it would, of course, have to change. To what, I don’t know. But I do think the flag design can come later. At the moment the question is very simple, and should be simple. It is this: Do we want an Australian head of state? That’s it. Yes or No. If we agree that we do, we then move forward. But let’s not get lost in the whos and hows just yet.''
Sneaky isn't it? And note the absolute centrality of the head of state argument.
Unlike the Keating government in Australia, when the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key wanted to change the flag, he agreed that the final decision should be with the New Zealand people in a referendum to be held to coincide with the September election.
In this briefing, David Flint says the PM was no doubt surprised that he had little support from the New Zealand people almost three quarters of whom are opposed to his plan to ditch the NZ Flag.
Realising that if he went ahead with the referendum, it would not only be lost but could become the major issue and therefore result in losses to his party.
So he has had to backtrack and postpone the referendum to sometime during the next term.
For some reason republicans try to argue that our Flag only dates from 1953, the year of the Flag Act. Not so, as Sir Robert Menzies, the Prime Minister explained, the Flag Act put into legislative form what was established and authorised by Royal Proclamation after a public competition following Federation.
Sir Robert was supported by the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, Dr HV Evatt.
Sir Robert addressed Parliament on 20 November 1953 in these words:
''The Bill is very largely a formal measure which puts into legislative form what has become almost the established practice in Australia.
At the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia, the attention of the Australian Government was directed to the necessity to adopt an Australian flag.
As a result, an advertisement was published in the Government Gazette which invited the submission of competitive designs for two Australian flags, one for naval and official purposes and the other for the mercantile marine.
It is interesting to record that 30,000 entries were received on that occasion, and the judges recommended that the prize for the winning design should be divided among five persons.
They were Mrs. Annie Dorrington, of Perth, Mr. William Stevens of Auckland, Mr. Leslie J. Hawkins of Melbourne, Mr. Ivor Evans, of Melbourne, and Mr. E. J. Nuttall, of Melbourne.
The design adopted was submitted to His Majesty King Edward VII. and he was pleased to approve of it as the Australian flag in 1902..."
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who describes himself as a republican, seriously misjudged how strongly opposed New Zealanders are to ditching their flag. Polling indicates almost three quarters of New Zealanders are opposed to this.
Had he proceeded with a referendum at the same time as the September 2014 election, it could have become the big issue.
There would have been massive opposition which could have affected the voting at the election. So he has postponed flag change to the next term.
...contrast with Australia...
When he suddenly announced he wanted to ditch the New Zealand Flag, Mr Key at least did not do what the Keating government planned to do to Australians.
This was to force us, against our wishes, to accept the trashing of our flag.
The Keating government actually announced the flag would be changed before the Centenary of Federation. There was no indication t there would be a referendum. It was as though we were living under a republican dictatorship.
In The Sydney Morning Herald 6 June 1994, Mike Seccombe reported ( ''New Flag on track,'') that the Minister of Finance Kim Beazley had stated that the Keating Government ''was sticking to its timetable' for changes to Australia’s constitution and flag by the end of the century.''
This was '' in spite of strong public opposition''.
Aerial Skiing silver medallist David Morris has been named Australian Flagbearer for the Sochi 2014 Closing Ceremony, reports Taya Conomos on the Australian Olympic Team website, 22 February 2014.
Morris, Australia’s one and only male aerials medallist, was offered the position by Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman yesterday and had to keep it a secret until it was revealed this morning in Sochi.
“It’s a privilege, I’ve always dreamed of this. It’s awesome,” said Morris, who spoke to media with the Australian flag draped around him.
“To be selected to represent the Team and what we stand for is just amazing.”
The 29-year-old dual Olympian is one of the most charismatic members of the Team. Since leaping to an inspired silver medal, Morris has been out supporting his teammates every day sporting an Australian flag on his back- you could say he’s been practicing.
“I watched Chumpy in the Opening Ceremony- he did a very good job," he said adding ''maybe I'll dance.''