Government to Preserve Flag in Aspic

MEDIA RELEASE. Thursday 25 April 1996

"The Australian Flag is clearly under attack as the Australian Government is now considering legislation, unprecedented in the western world or the Commonwealth of Nations, to ensure the flag is preserved in aspic," Mr Harold Scruby, Executive Director of Ausflag said today.

Mr Scruby was critical of Mr Howard announcing his plans to hold a referendum or a plebiscite "before the Australian Flag could be changed" on Anzac Day. "This is a most divisive act, when Mr Howard knows that at least 50% of the Australian people want their own new flag, especially after it was Mr Howard who promised to `govern for all of us'. This declaration on such a sacred day will split the community," he said.

Mr Scruby went on to make the following points, he said:

  1. The Australian flag should be able to fly on its own without the need to be wrapped in cotton wool and kept on a life-support system. Countries such as Britain, USA, Japan, Canada and France do not need such protection because their flags are not under threat. The UK does not even have an Act of Parliament protecting the flag as we have.

  2. Why not include other icons such as the National Anthem and the Coat of Arms? Shouldn't they require a referendum or plebiscite before they are changed, or is it a fact that they are safe because they are genuine Australian symbols and are not under threat?
  3. The Democrats have formally undertaken not to vote for a referendum which would leave the option of a plebiscite the only alternative. Plebiscites are not binding on Governments as was shown when Mr Fraser and Mr Howard held the National Anthem plebiscite in 1977. Although the overwhelming majority chose Advance Australia Fair, the Fraser Government ignored the will of the people and it was not until 1984 that Mr Hawke proclaimed Advance Australia Fair as our Anthem.

  4. This proposed legislation can be repealed by a future Government and lawyers expert in Constitutional law doubt whether this sort of legislation is at all legal in the first place. If it set a precedent, would it not be possible to require all enacted legislation to go before the people before it could be changed?

  5. Ausflag has always campaigned for a plebiscite, but one which would follow the National Anthem precedent of 1977 where one or several designs would be put alongside the existing flag and the people would make the final choice.

  6. The Australian Flag has changed five times since Captain Cook landed on our shores. At no stage have these changes been put to the Australian people. Both the Naval and Air Force ensigns have also been changed without any consultation whatsoever. The Naval Ensign was changed in 1968 because the British were concerned that their Naval Ensign was being confused with ours in the South China Sea off Vietnam.

  7. 51 out of the 53 countries of the Commonwealth of Nations now have their own flags. Only Australia and New Zealand still retain post-colonial British ensigns as their national flags. A recent survey revealed that 59% of our Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medallists want a new flag.

  8. The Australian Flag fails its primary purpose of uniting the Australian people. Trying to block the inevitable proclamation of our own flag by artificial barriers will fail because of this very point."

Mr Scruby said: "We wrote to Mr Howard on 28 March 1996 but he has chosen to respond through the media on Anzac Day. While this would not have been the day we would have chosen, his statement demands a reply."