Sydney Morning Herald, 26 January 2011.
© Sydney Morning Herald
Australians of the Year rally around as call goes out for a new flag
IN AN unprecedented show of strength
and purpose, more than a dozen Australians
of the Year dating back to the
1960s have declared their support for a
new national flag. The present design
causes confusion overseas and embarrassment
at home, said Patrick
McGorry, the 2010 award winner.
"It′s time Australia grew up. Right
now, it′s a bit like a slowly maturing,
Generation Y adolescent, a 27-yearold
who just won′t leave home," he
said yesterday, calling on the nation to
move into "independent adulthood".
Professor McGorry, a mental health
expert, who believes a new flag is now
achievable on the way to the greater
prize of a republic, is one of 15 to have
signed a statement calling for change.
Others include the Clean Up campaigner
Ian Kiernan, swimmers Dawn
Fraser and Shane Gould, and scientists
Ian Frazer, Gustav Nossal and Tim
Ausflag, which drafted the statement,
believes it can secure support
from other award recipients. It is
understood only a few of those
approached withheld support. "This
is a major breakthrough, backed by
some of the nation′s most respected
people," said Harold Scruby, who
founded Ausflag in 1981.
Timed to coincide with the usual
Australia Day debate on national
identity, the statement says the
present flag "highlights and promotes
the flag of another nation", Britain.
We must boldly take the next step
and define ourselves confidently and
distinctly before the world. Our new
flag must be unambiguously and
inclusively Australian, representing
all of us equally."
The proposal, which conies after
several unsuccessful moves to replace
the flag, calls on Parliament to produce
a design which, "like our national
anthem, can be put to a plebiscite
of the Australian people".
Supporters concede that, like devising
an acceptable model for a republic,
designing a new flag will not be easy.
Ausflag has promoted three design
competitions: in 1986 before the bicentenary;
in 1993 after Sydney won the
right to host the 2000 Olympics, and in
1998, before the new millennium.
Not surprisingly, though the signatories
say the process should not be
divisive, they have different views on
the shortcomings of the present
design and what might replace it.
On one thing they agree: the change
is long overdue. Professor McGorry,
who was born in Ireland and has been
a critic of Australia′s refugee policy,
says there is no excuse for inaction. "I
am sure some people will say, oh, ′this
is not the time. Australia has other
priorities′. But that′s pathetic. Governments
can deal with dozens, hundreds
of issues at one time."
To continue ignoring the issue
would only confirm a widespread
feeling, apparent since the last federal
election, that there was a lack of leadership
in public life, he added.
Mr Scruby said the Gillard government
would, no doubt, like to "run a
mile from the subject", but he was
more confident than ever that the
latest initiative could force it to act.
Meanwhile, Ausflag is seeking formal
commitments from former prime ministers
such as Paul Keating, Bob Hawke
and Malcolm Fraser.