Aussie picks NZ to win race to new flag

The New Zealand Herald, 25 November 2004.

Australia may be beating New Zealand in all sporting events but it is trailing in the race for a new flag, says an Aussie who should know. Harold Scruby, the man behind the movement to change the Australian flag, is in New Zealand issuing a challenge to update our flag.

"I think now the interesting thing is who′s going to be first, or more importantly, who′s going to be last?" It was too awful to contemplate New Zealand winning the race, Mr Scruby said, but he was resigned to a rare Australian defeat.

"We think you′ve found your design, and I think it′s going to beat us." The silver fern on a black background seems to be the most popular design for a new flag, he said. "It′s just sensational in our view."

He stopped short of suggesting our new design could be cricket wickets with the bails flying off, but thought a rugby ball might be appropriate. "After all, it is your religion."

Australians are divided on a new flag, with some wanting a kangaroo and others liking a southern cross design. A website set up by Mr Scruby shows designs the public have come up with.

They show a growing push to acknowledge Aborigines as the original people of Australia. "There seems to be a great desire to have something in the flag that would represent the Aboriginal people. At the moment there′s nothing representing them. It′s all been given over to the British influence and suggesting they were the original inhabitants, which of course they weren′t."

However, the website has seen its share of not-so-noble designs. "We′ve had everything from an emu with its head in the ground to stubbies and crossed thongs."

Great flag designs embrace some very important prerequisites including simplicity, ease of recognition and boldness, Mr Scruby said. His top flags are those of Canada, Britain, Japan, Israel, the United States, European Union and the Aboriginal flag (black top half, red bottom half, with a yellow sun in the middle).

In 1998, moves for Australia to become a republic were defeated in a national referendum. Despite that, breaking links with England was only a matter of time, Mr Scruby said. Once Australia became a republic, a change of flag would soon follow, he said.

"We′re not going to become a republic and still have a flag that says we are a subordinate nation to the UK. It was also absurd to have New Zealand and Australia waving near-identical flags at each other during sporting events, he said.

"When we beat you in the World Cup, there was hardly an Australian or New Zealand flag in the place. The whole stadium was filled with silver ferns and boxing kangaroos."

The following week during the World Cup final against England, Australia played under the Union Jack and England played under the flag of Saint George, he said. "Talk about confusing an international audience."

The similarity between our two flags has also succeeded in confusing international dignitaries. When Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke visited Ottawa in Canada in 1985, the New Zealand flag was raised in his honour.

Mr Scruby said many Commonwealth countries have updated their flag. It was spurious to say that changing the flag insults the memory of old soldiers who fought under the Union Jack.

Mr Scruby has issued a challenge to Prime Minister Helen Clark to take up the call to change the flag. "Helen Clark could really stamp a phenomenal identity upon the New Zealand nation, and how silly would that make Australia look?"