The republican plan to change the flag
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 06 December 2006

ImageThe republicans are extraordinary. Without a mandate they want to remove all the symbols of the Australian Crown - an institution they see as a constraint on republican politicians.  The republican movement is now coy about what sort of republic they want. The answer is quite clear. Any republic will do. Republicans recently attacked the anthem and they definitely plan to change the flag. The republican newspaper The Age has said so. The republican flag changers deliberately ran dead during the 1999 republican referendum campaign to assist the republican case. There strategy was to change the flag after we became a republic, but not to tell the people of this.  In those days, a plebiscite was not necessary. Parliament could of course repeal the requirement that there be one.  If you have any doubts about the republicans’ strategy to change the flag after a republic is attained, but to pretend this will not happen under a republic, this extract fro the ABC AM programme archive of Tuesday 24 August, 1999 reveals all. And remember, the Keating government was planning to change the flag before the Centenary of Federation -- without the people having a vote. None of the flag changers wanted legislation for a plebiscite, although they could hardly oppose it when John Howard introduced it. All flag changers are republican, and at the time of the referendum, all republicans - at least those leading the campaign- were flag changers. The ABC transcript is headed: “Ausflag says republic should bring a change of flag.”

 

 

AM Archive - Tuesday, 24 August , 1999  00:00:00

Reporter: Fiona Reynolds

COMPERE: The head of Ausflag, a lobby group demanding that Australia change its national flag, has promised to run dead during the referendum campaign to assist the republican case. But Harold Scruby says that if Australians vote to become a republic it would be a natural consequence for the Australian flag to change. National Party Leader, John Anderson, yesterday warned that having a republic would increase pressure to change the flag as well. Harold Scruby spoke to Fiona Reynolds.

 HAROLD SCRUBY: We are no longer a colony of Great Britain, we are a sovereign independent nation. And the flag we have today says to the world we are a colony, we are a subordinate branch office of Great Britain.

FIONA REYNOLDS: Ausflag has kept a low profile during the republic campaign. Why?

HAROLD SCRUBY: Because we don't see that the flag issue has anything to do with this question that's about to be asked of the Australian people. The word 'flag' does not appear in the constitution.

FIONA REYNOLDS: But if Australia does become a republic, what then?

HAROLD SCRUBY: Then we campaign hard.

FIONA REYNOLDS: So John Anderson is right?

HAROLD SCRUBY: John Anderson is correct that there's probably going to be a much greater push to have a new flag once we become a republic, but that doesn't mean that if we don't become a republic there's not also going to be a push to have a new flag.

FIONA REYNOLDS: But the republican movement says the flag won't necessarily change.

HAROLD SCRUBY: Well first of all, they have no right to say that and secondly, it's not true. All the flags except Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, within the Commonwealth of nations, have changed. It's a natural progression, it's evolutionary. The Australian flag will change, it's just a matter of when.

FIONA REYNOLDS: Why do you think the republicans are trying to play down the flag issue?

HAROLD SCRUBY: I don't know their motives. Perhaps they think that this will affect their cause. But they shouldn't be mentioning the flag and if they're asked the question they should state quite unequivocally that it has nothing to do with this question. I say again, the word 'flag' does not appear in the constitution. It's not part of the question.

FIONA REYNOLDS: Is it true that Malcolm Turnbull used to be a director of Ausflag?

HAROLD SCRUBY: Yes he was a director several years ago and he left us to promote the republican cause. We decided together that we would campaign separately because they were quite separate issues.

FIONA REYNOLDS: You're a republican, aren't you concerned about turning off a lot of potential 'yes' voters because of concerns over changes to the flag?

HAROLD SCRUBY: Well I'm concerned about the truth. And I think if we're honest with ourselves the truth is simply this: There's a question before us on the 6th of November and that is whether we'll become a republic or not. We should focus on that. What happens after that is completely separate - and that includes whether we change the anthem, the flag, the currency, or any other monuments or symbols. FIONA REYNOLDS: It would be pretty difficult to change the flag though, wouldn't it? Legislation requires a national plebiscite.

HAROLD SCRUBY: Yes. We support the thrust of that legislation, although it is unlawful. But we do agree - just like the national anthem in 1977 - we should have a plebiscite and the people should decide on the change. And that will happen. And I think people should not have any worries about the flag changing without the support of the Australian people, that's just not going to happen.