The latest incident of Flag banning raise the question whether Parliament should proceed to make dishonouring the Flag an offence. The republican movement, and Paul Keating in particular, have a lot to answer for in encouraging this by their campaigns against the flag.
Now the Australian flag has been banned from this year's Big Day Out in Sydney after organisers branded it a "gang colour" and symbol of hate, according to a report by Kathy McCabe and Simon Benson in the Daily Telegraph of 22 January, 2007. The reporters said that the organizers of the rock festival at Homebush planned to confiscate any flag or bandana bearing the national symbol at the gate. The organizers defended their action claiming Sydney was “ a hot bed of racism .” They had already moved the event from the traditional time, Australia Day, to avoid these “nationalistic overtones.” The Prime Minister John Howard responded by declaring that the Big Day Out should be cancelled unless organisers reversed their decision to ban the flag. The Telegraph reported that the event producer Ken West claimed that the use of flags last year after the Cronulla riots and recent clashes between Serb and Croatian fans at the Australian Open tennis had forced his hand. He said:"I didn't like the behaviour of last year and we have moved the event from Australia Day this year partly because of the way the flags were used. The Australian flag was being used as gang colours. It was racism disguised as patriotism and I'm not going to tolerate it. I am telling people not to bring (flags) – they are free to get them out at midnight on their way home when it is Australia Day." After widespread outrage on talkback radio, and condemnation of their action by the Prime Minister and the Premier, the organizers said they were only discouraging the bringing of the flag to the event.
This is not the first time that the flag has been banned in recent months.
In Victoria, a Uniting Church minister recently sparked outrage by refusing a Digger's dying wish to have the Australian flag draped over his coffin, Annalise Walliker reported in the Herald Sun of 7 December, 2006 (“Flag banned at Digger's funeral”). According to the report, the Highfield Rd Uniting Church in Canterbury had banned the flag at the funeral of a long time congregation member and war veteran Geoff Bolton on November 15.
The newspaper believed that members of the family were only told of the church's policy on the morning of the funeral and were forced to have the RSL service in the church's foyer.
The minister, Wes Campbell, had previously refused to allow the flag to be placed on the funeral casket of World War II veteran George "Dick'" Vipond. In response, the family moved the funeral to a nearby Anglican church.
State RSL president Major-General David McLachlan spoke about the incident on Melbourne radio station 3AW. He said: "It is an incredible insult to the family and also to Mr Bolton himself. He was a veteran, he wanted to be buried under his national flag that he'd fought under and he and his family had agreed to the RSL service I think it's just unacceptable. Here are people wishing to have the final ceremony conducted in the church where Mr and Mrs Bolton were married some 50 years ago. "The churches at the moment are crying out for membership, but those that have been faithful members of the church get treated this way and I just don't think it's right."
The former Victorian Uniting Church Moderator, the Rev. Sue Gorman, had issued a statement in June 2005 stating that "the Synod Standing Committee gives strong affirmation for the use of the national flag within the Christian funeral liturgy. The majority of Uniting Church of Australia Ministers… allow the coffin to be covered with the national flag during the funeral service (of a returned Service person) and they can continue to follow this practice."