100,000 tap into the Net to see flags

The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 January 1998, p.5

By Paul Sheehan

A national competition for a new Australian flag is generating strong public interest, far stronger than any previous effort to change the flag. "I have never seen a level of interest even remotely like this," said Mr Harold Scruby, the executive director of Ausflag, who has campaigned for a new flag for 18 years.

On Sunday, Ausflag unveiled 100 new flags by professional designers. Since Saturday, when the Herald published the Internet address at which people could see the designs, the website has had more than 100,000 hits.

The Herald has had a strong response to a flag poll, which invites readers to vote by phone for their favourite designs. But the Ausflag competition has also had negative responses.

The executive director of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy, Ms Kerry Jones, said: "Republicans always pick a day such as Australia Day to raise divisive issues such as this flag competition. It′s disgraceful." She said that if Australia became a republic there would definitely be a change to the flag.

A Federal Liberal MP, Mr Tony Abbott, criticised some sponsors of the competition: "What on Earth possessed multinationals such as Apple computer and Fuji film to take sides in a debate which should be wholly Australian-owned?"

The Victorian Premier, Mr Kennett, said yesterday that he supported the present Australian flag but one day it might carry the Aboriginal flag in the corner now showing the Union Jack.

Later this year, after extensive public input, Ausflag will submit three designs to the Government, requesting a national plebiscite similar to the 1977 one that chose the National Anthem.

People can see the designs at the Museum of Sydney or on the Internet at www.ausflag.com.au.