In the nineties the republicans campaigned openly for a change of the Flag. At the same time as the Constitutional Convention in 1998, the republicans even sponsored an exhibition of mainly awful alternative flags in Canberra. There was one other republican sponsored exhibition which I particularly remember. One flag included the use of appalling language suggesting , in polite terms, that some people might go and live in the UK. ( I occasionally receive that abuse, although I was born here.)
At about this time, ACM had a lovely poster showing our superb Australian Flag, with the words; “When republicans see this, they think of England . When constitutional monarchists see this they think of Australia.” It seems the overwhelming majority of Australians have come to agree with us on that. So much so that even the ultra republican and ratings-challenged Sydney broadcaster, Mr. Mike Carlton claims he has been converted to supporting the Australian Flag.
The republicans now claim, deviously, that the flag is a issue separate from whatever republic they now want, although they are also coy on that and are, as Mr Philip Gibson says, RWM – Republicans Without a Model. The Age let that cat out of the bag about the intrinsic relationship between republicanism and flag changing. The Age’s editorial of 20 March 2004 asked whether anyone really believes that Australia is likely to become a republic without also changing its flag. In this The Age clearly represents republican thought, although it hasn’t even the come out of its monarchist closet. You see The Age, our ultra republican Melbourne newspaper, is still published, believe it or not, under a version of the Royal Coat of Arms.
One of the web comments on my letter about the office of Governor-General published in The Australian on 5 July, 2007 (published also in this column on 3 July, 2006)is typical. It was from Mr. David Milton of Brisbane and is dated 4 July, 2007.
He writes:” David Flint, more than 70 per cent of Australians want a Republic, so pretty shortly there won’t be a GG full stop. Hopefully changing our embarrassing Australian flag will follow shortly after.”
Apart from the exaggeration of republican support, note the reference to our “embarrassing” flag. I suppose in some inner city salons, the denizens still shrink in embarrassment about our nation and its symbols.
In the meantime, the ABC broadcast a programme on the flag in their Sunday night “Compass” series on 1 July, 2007. This included a segment with Kerry Jones of the Constitutional Education Fund –Australia, before a class of students in a Muslim school. (Kerry Jones , who was formerly National Director of ACM, is now able to continue the work of this non-partisan fund after the extremely serious allegations made by Lindsay Tanner MP, Opposition Shadow Minister for Finance, under Parliamentary privilege, have been shown, after an exhaustive investigation, to be completely and absolutely groundless and to contain not one skerrick of the truth). The rest of the programme concentrated mainly on comments by academicians clearly disgruntled with the popularity of the Flag. While Kerry Jones was introduced as a strong monarchist, none of the other speakers were labelled as to where they stood on these matters. Of course there were the inevitable references to Cronulla. There were also references to the Union Jack with the implication that any respect shown to it was in itself a good argument for getting rid of the Australian Flag. It was of course always the intention that the practice of also flying the Union Flag continue as long as Australians wished. Section 8 of the Flags Act of 1953 spells this out, declaring that the legislation “does not affect the right or privilege of a person to fly the Union Jack.”
A reader, David Byers, has made this telling point:
”On Sunday 1st of July ABC – TV played an episode of Compass in which the Australian Flag was presented as a contentious issue. One of the arguments put forward, which I have heard before, was that Australian solders in The Great War and later in The Second World War fought and died under the Union Jack (Union Flag) far more often then the Australian flag. This is indeed true and is something we, who support the Australian Flag, should embrace; because if so many of our troops fought under the Union Jack that gives us even MORE reason for keeping it in our flag!”