Newcastle Herald, 27 January 2011.
© Newcastle Herald
Fluttering in the wind
IF you go to the Ausflag website you′ll get
some idea why we keep having the
Australian flag debate, but nothing much is
On the Ausflag home page you′ll read that:
"A truly Australian flag must represent our
nation and its people; our past, present and
future; our land; our equality and diversity;
our achievements; our hopes and
And all on a piece of fabric that must also
look pretty when it flutters.
No wonder the debate has come and gone
so many times that it′s become as much of an
annual event as Australia Day or Anzac Day.
On Australia Day we expect to debate a new
flag. On Anzac Day we expect to cling to the
One of the problems with the current
Australian flag is that it′s not ugly. The
combination of colours and angles, the stars
of the Southern Cross, even the Union Jack
in the corner, are not displeasing to the eye.
I support a republic but even I have to
push myself to get worked up about the flag,
despite acknowledging we should cut
formal ties with Great Britain.
The debate was given a new twist
yesterday when 12 former Australians of the
year declared their support for a new flag.
The present design causes confusion
overseas and embarrassment at home,
according to 2010 Australian of the Year
"It′s time Australia grew up. Right now, it′s
a bit like a slowly maturing Generation Y
adolescent, a 27-year-old who just won′t
leave home," he said.
The call from the prominent 12 would
have given long-time Ausflag executive
Harold Scruby heart. For as long as there
have been Australian flag debates, Seruby
has led them.
He promises a new flag that will "bring a
lump to the throat, a tear to the eye", which
is setting the bar rather high.
Maybe we should be content with sorting
out what a flag is supposed to be about, first.
If a flag is supposed to say "Australia" to
people overseas so that they don′t confuse
us with anywhere else, or Austrians, then it
has to have a kangaroo on it.
Go to the far reaches of Earth - a frozen
tundra, an arid desert, the densest
rai nforest- produce a picture of a kangaroo
and most likely it will be recognised as
Australian, although one or two people
might say Austrian.
The Eureka flag and the red, black and
ochre indigenous flag are pleasing to the
eye as designs, and mean something here in
Australia, but won′t have that same
recognition factor overseas.
But maybe that′s not what we′re aiming
If it′s a flag representing Australia, for
Australians, then the Eureka flag, the
indigenous flag or any of the green and gold
combinations might do it, although
personally, the green and gold will never
bring a lump to my throat or a tear to my eye
simply because I don′t like the colour
Witness how many times we′ve let fashion
designers have their way with green and
gold for national uniforms, and how many
times we′ve cringed at the results. Lumping
the flag with those colours will ensure many
years of embarrassment ahead.
A quick flick through national flags of the
world shows we share the Union Jack in the
corner with a reasonable list of other
places. There′s New Zealand and Fiji, of
But places like Montserrat, the Virgin
Islands, Pitcairn Islands, Tokelau, the
Falkland Islands, the Cayman Islands and
the South Georgia and South Sandwich
Islands also have variations of the royal
blue and Union Jack that we hold so dear.
And they′re all variations on a theme of
British overseas territories.
American comedian Jerry Seinfeld
famously called the Australian flag "Britain
by night", and it very neatly sums up the
problem we face when we try to have the
Britain by night doesn′t sound too bad. It
even sounds pretty. There′s tradition with the
link to Britain, but the starry sky suggests
beauty and a different view of the world.
Maybe we should follow Canada′s lead.
Their red and white maple leaf
combination is simple and elegant, and they
seem to have worked out how to put a
national symbol onto a piece of fabric
without turning it into kitsch.
Maybe that can be "our hope and