Big guns raise the Southern Cross, flagship for a new millennium

The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 January 1997, p.5.

By Tony Stephens

The Nicks Greiner and Whitlam, respectively a former Liberal Premier of NSW and son of a former Labor Prime Minister of Australia, came together yesterday to put out more flags and to nudge the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, along a little.

Mr Greiner and Mr Whitlam, co-chairmen of Ausflag, hoisted the latest proposal for a new Australian flag up poles outside Sydney Town Hall, as part of the Australia Day holiday celebrations.

The latest in a growing series of designs put forward by Ausflag is what Mr Greiner called evolutionary and minimalist, keeping the red, white and blue and the Southern Cross, while removing the Union Jack.

The co-chairmen issued a statement: "While this is not intended to be the definitive design for a new Australian flag, it is an example of how the elements of the Southern Cross and the red, white and blue can be brought together to create a unique and inspiring design."

Welcoming the Federal Government′s new legislation, which will require a plebiscite before the flag can be changed, they said this would give the people a range of designs from which to choose, much as with the national anthem in 1977.

"There is clear evidence that the Australian people are increasingly wanting their own flag in time for the 2000 Olympics and the new millennium," the co-chairmen said.

"It is vital that the world sees us as a mature, independent nation, not a colony still subordinate to Britain."

They urged the Federal Government to promote debate on the subject, devoting funds for research and design and appointing a parliamentary committee.

Mr Greiner said the Prime Minister was conservative about the flag but Ausflag wanted to "push him on the process". Commenting on the Herald-AGB McNair Poll published yesterday which suggested that 66 per cent of voters would support using the Aboriginal flag as part of the design, Mr Greiner said Ausflag would seek talks with leaders of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission but it was not appropriate to assume that Aboriginal people would want their flag used in any way. Mr Whitlam said to replace the Union Jack in the corner of the Australian flag with the Aboriginal flag would be to suggest the replacement of one form of domination with another.

It could be argued that the Southern Cross represented Aborigines because it was part of their dreaming. He said it was just as reasonable to have the Japanese flag in the corner, because Japan was Australia′s biggest trading partner, or the Stars and Stripes, because the United States protected us. Ms Anne Keating, another member of the Ausflag board, said she had been reading The Fatal Shore, Robert Hughes′s book about the foundation of the colony, and felt more strongly than ever that the flag should be changed.