Until the referendum, most republicans – and the official republican movement – were quite open about their intention to change the flag.
Kim Beazley announced it would be changed before 2001, without even a referendum!
Malcolm Turnbull, who led the republican movement, was also a director of a company whose principal object was flag change, Ausflag. His merchant bank was a sponsor of its exhibitions of new flags.
But with the exception of the republican newspaper, The Age, most prominent republicans are now back peddling on the flag. Some have recorded their support for the flag they once wanted to change.
Others hide behind the proposition that it is a separate, unrelated issue, but that won’t fool Australians. They said the opposite when they thought they had the republic in the bag.
In the meantime, with the onslaught of outrage at their decision, Waverley Council has now retreated from saying that the flag is provocative to recent immigrants, and should not be flown over the Bondi Pavilion.
They now offer the lame excuse that the Pavilion is a heritage building.
Some heritage building!
The Council recently authorised the vanadalisation of the building by an extension which mars the architectural features of the Pavillion facade. And the purpose of this was to allow a privately run restaurant to have more tables with a view.
The other newly proffered reasons are, believe it or not, the expense, and who will take down and put up the flag.
The Mayor, Mora Main, decided to attack the local federal member, Malcolm Turnbull, who offered the flag as part of the policy of the Howard government.
In a letter to Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on 5 January,2005, she said that as a member of the Greens , she supports “the republican debate hitherto championed by Mr Turnbull.”
She asks whether he “is attempting to bury his republican past by flagging every building in his Wentworth electorate?”
And while the republican leadership is trying desperately not to mention the flag, to their embarassment republicans are spoiling their camouflage and openly coming out to attack the Australian flag.
Republican Andrew Martin of Cabarita, NSW, in a letter to the Daily Telegraph on 4 January, 2005 denounced the flag.
“Its time to grow up, " he said. "Let’s get on with the republic and our own identity”
In the same edition, another republican, Con Tricolas of Kaleen in the ACT attacked the flag as”tired and unrepresentative”.
"There has never been a better time to put the flag and the republic back on the political agenda, “ he insisted.
But when you look at the polls, you can well understand why the republican leadership wants to keep quiet about changing the flag.
The Telegraph’s telephone poll attracted about three times as many callers as usual, 228. Asked “Waverley Council vetoed the flying of the Australian flag over Bondi Beach pavilion, fearing violence. Is this a good decision?”, ninety six per cent said No.
The Sydney Morning Herald’s on line poll, the results of which do not seem to be reported to those who actually buy the Herald, were similar.
This was the question: “Are fears that flag sparks racial tension justified?” Seven percent chose this answer: “Yes, it may incite division.” Eighty percent chose:” No, let it fly.”
Twelve percent chose:” Fears justified but it should fly regardless”
No wonder the republican movement, claiming not to know what sort of republic we must have, and have soon, wants that additional troublesome issue of the flag to go away. But its supporters , and The Age, keep letting the cat out of the bag.
Until next time,