Our Divisive Flag

Originally published as a Letter to the Editor in The Age 27 January 1997.

The current Australian flag clearly fails in its primary purpose of uniting us as a nation.

It is now time for Mr Howard to cease labelling issues he opposes as "divisive", as though division is something evil and counter-productive. In a healthy, democratic, pluralistic society, division is generally good.

Issues such as Federation, universal suffrage, Vietnam, Mabo and the recent gun laws have all divided our nation, sometimes bitterly. Every general election has divided us. But in the longer term, the outcomes have been unifying and have strengthened us as a nation.

To quote Dame Leonie Kramer (Sydney Morning Herald 9 August 1995): "If however, it is clear that all views may compete and in the process be modified, but that dissent from the majority view does not imply that the dissenter is either wrong or bent on being disruptive, then the democratic process is working well. The dissenters might in fact be proved right in the end."

Issues such as a new flag for Australia and the republic will also divide our nation.

Rather than condemning those who wish to promote the discussion of divisive ideas, which may at times be contrary to the status quo, Mr Howard should encourage open and honest debate about important national issues.

This debate will not go away until we find a flag which unites us all.