|The whole notion of Australian of the Year is in need of rejuvenation, declared Piers Akerman in the Daily Telegraph on 27 January 2011.
The process has clearly been captured.
But in Victoria, at least, the process is not fully captured. A truly independent body, the Australia Day Council (Victoria) Inc has survived. They invited me to give the address this year.
In the meantime, Piers Akerman continued:
Why did the Government choose someone who is so unhappy with the historical fact that Australia is a country with a British heritage reflected in our language, our laws, even the side of the road we drive?
(Simon) McKeon wishes to dispense with the small nod to the roots of our extraordinarily stable representative parliamentary democracy through the constitutional monarchy and the symbolism of the flag to represent the aspirations of the nation. McKeon is the latest in a series of appointees who have shown some sympathy with unpopular positions embraced by the Labor Federal Government. The chosen individual, by choice or unwittingly, becomes a symbolic fig leaf for the Government to hide behind whenever particular policies are challenged.
Last year’s choice, Professor Patrick McGorry, was a handy foil for the Rudd government to use against those arguing for tougher restrictions on those who use illegal people smugglers to enter Australia (though ultimately the Rudd-Gillard governments were unable to dismantle the detention system fast enough to please McGorry).
I told The Australian :
I recalled that Canada, a leading NATO and G7/G8 power, which sits at the top tables of the world, has a similar constitution.
Few Canadians would think their nation immature because of its sophisticated constitutional system. It is likely that they would be outraged by such a gratuitous psychiatric assessment (“The nation is not on a psychiatric couch” 27/8)
Professor McGorry even campaigned for constitutional change in his last hours in office.
…Fairfax and Ausflag give the game away…
He joined one of a number of previous Australians of the Year lined up by Ausflag for a Fairfax exclusive for Australia Day.
But in doing so they inadvertently gave the game away.
There can be no doubt now that the official Australia Day process has been captured by the usual elites obsessed with changing the flag and the constitution.
Now Ausflag surreptitiouly handed over an exclusive story to the Fairfax outlets. They obviouly did not trust any News Limited outlets to do their bidding.
In return Fairfax gave it maximum effect -front page treatment on Australia Day with of course editorial support.
In a letter to The Age, Dr. Brian Chapman presented a view held by many Australians:
In your article "Leading Australians start push to sack Union Jack from national flag" (26/1) you quote outgoing Australian of the Year, Patrick McGorry, as saying "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".
I should have thought that a mental health expert would understand that the best measure of when one has truly grown up is when one feels completely at ease with ones daily friends and associates in the presence of one’s parents.
Inclusion of the Union Jack in our flag symbolises the most treasured aspects of our heritage, our language, literature, system of government and rule of law – all of which make Australia one of the most sought-after refuges on earth for the dispossessed.
That this symbol displeases some of our leading thinkers so persistently is suggestive of a specific kind of mental health problem that would merit further study. Perhaps this is something for Professor McGorry to think about when he writes his next grant application.”
The Age did not publish the letter.
…Fairfax ignores Press Council Principles …
Instead of seeking a simultaneous response to the story, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age chose to give the story maximum effect by publishing it on Australia Day without any opposing views whatsoever.
But the Australia Press Council Principles state that:
The publication should ensure fairness and balance in the original article.Failing that, it should provide a reasonable and swift opportunity for a balancing response in an appropriate section of the publication.
Press Council rulings indicate that balance should only be put off where it is impossible. For example, a politician under attack cannot be contacted fro a response.
The point is, there was obviously time for fairfax to provide balance – especially on Australia Day. The story didn’t land on the editor’s desk within minutes of putting the papers to bed.
But Fairfax and Ausflag wanted to get the maximum effect on Australia Day.
This is using the news pages to promote an agenda, isn’t it?
The conclusion must be that Fairfax press is so obsessed with their republican flag change agenda that they are prepared to put aside ethical standards.
…balance put off until the next day…
It was only on the next day that opposing views were published.
In Old blue still has admirers, despite push for change Yuko Narushima and Peta Doherty revealed that the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott wanted to keep the current design.
It's not just my opinion, it's the opinion of millions of people who are proudly flying the flag today.
There was also an interesting reversal of Labor Party policy which under the Keating government was to change the flag before 2000 without a vote by the people.
I'm a big advocate of the current Australian flag. We love it.
Clearly for many politicians inclined to jump on any bandwagon, the polls and focus groups are telling them that on these issues –to use the vernacular: “Pull your head in.”
The Herald also published ACM’s view:
Mr Flint acknowledged that many Australians had no historical links with Britain but he said there was no reason to scrap the flag because of the Union Jack.''You don't get rid of the rule of law, the Westminster parliamentary system and the English language. You could really go on a rampage and get rid of everything that has any suggestion of Britain but that would be silly,'' he said.He also rejected any design blending the Aboriginal flag.''It's a relatively new flag. It's not as though the Aboriginal people were carrying it around in 1788 and I also think it would be an unattractive design to try to mix that with the Southern Cross. I think, just aesthetically, it wouldn't work,'' he said.
The Herald story added:Views were mixed among the Sydney public.''I don't think we should change the flag,'' said Chris Logan, at the Bankstown Council Garrison Point Australia Day celebration. Mr Logan brings his collection of at least 20 Australian flags to the celebrations every year.''I'm not really into the monarchy but I like the original Australian flag,'' he said. ''The Southern Cross doesn't belong to the Poms.''
How will it regain credibility?
Piers Akerman has a suggestion: Let the next Australian of the Year be someone who represents and expresses confidence in our wonderful nation – with all its real and imagined shortcomings. Let them reflect the pride we share in our volunteers and their selfless achievements and respect the strengths that made our culture universally admired.