Let's have an Aussie only vote on the flag

The Sun-Herald, 28 April 1996, p.20.

By Alex Mitchell

Things have come to a sorry pass when the Federal Government has to propose legislation to protect our national flag. The new law, proposed by Prime Minister John Howard, exposes the weakness not the strength of the declining number of people who want to retain the current flag with its British Union Jack, the "butcher's apron" in the corner.

Under the planned Coalition legislation the flag can be changed only by a referendum or plebiscite. A plebiscite is the best way to go. Howard should follow the example of Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser who put four songs before the electorate in 1977 to find a new national anthem. We chose Advance Australia Fair. So with the flag, the people should be given a choice of designs, say three or four, including the current one.

However, voting should be restricted to Australians and naturalised Australians. This would mean excluding the one million Britons who arrived in Australia between 1949 and 1984 and were given voting rights but have never taken out citizenship. It is a fact that among all those migrants who come to these shores, the Britons are the least likely to become naturalised Aussies. It is beneath them. Despite expensive Commonwealth Publicity campaigns inviting them to swear our oath of allegiance, very large numbers refuse to do so.

All well and good. Membership of our nation is a privilege but if people don't wish to belong then that is their right. But by the same token, if Howard says the issue of the flag is so important that it can only be decided by a national vote, then only Australian citizens should take part.

The fifth column of empire loyalists should have no say in what our flag should be.