No flag change without a vote

The Melbourne Age, 25 April 1996.

Legislation will be introduced soon after Parliament resumes next week to ensure that the Australian flag cannot be changed without the support of a national referendum or plebiscite.

The Prime Minister, Mr Howard, foreshadowed the move in a statement to mark Anzac Day, which he said was a key component of Australia's national identity. The Australia Democrats, whose support is necessary for the legislation to pass, yesterday endorsed any legislation requiring a plebiscite to change the flag.

The plan was endorsed by the executive director of the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy group, Ms Kerry Jones. But the plan was strongly attacked by Ausflag, the group which is pushing to change the flag by 2000. Ausflag's executive director, Mr Harold Scruby, described the legislation as "a very political and divisive move". He said he was not opposed to a plebiscite but mandatorily imposing one was "absurd". If the legislation was passed, he said his group would launch a High Court challenge to ensure that only Australian citizens could take part in a formal vote on the flag's future.

Mr Howard said he wanted to act promptly on his pledge to protect the flag after he claimed before the election that Labor would unilaterally change it as a part of its push towards an Australian republic. Legislation to establish a peoples' convention on the republic and other constitutional issues is to be put to Cabinet soon, with votes expected to elect 50 per cent of the delegates early next year. Both parties in the coalition are expected to oppose any move to a republic at the convention.

© Ausflag 2018