Day to flag old arguments about the modern-day relevance of the national symbol

The Australian, 27 January 2011.

FLOGGING the flag debate on Australia Day has become something of a national sport.

John Huxley in yesterday′s The Sydney Morning Herald:

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.

Don′t get excited, we′ve been down that path before. Paul Sheehan in the SMH, January 31, 1998:

THE Australian flag has become a 1998 election issue. The public has given an overwhelming response to the latest design competition launched by Ausflag, with more than one million "hits" registered on the Ausflag internet site since the Herald published the address last Saturday . . . By an almost two-to-one margin, readers voted for one of the new designs rather than the national flag. The sheer size of the response, 10 times bigger than an average national opinion poll sample, indicates a deep reservoir of open-mindedness about the flag. The Prime Minister, a staunch defender of the existing flag, may have to take note of this response. "We′ve never had a response even remotely like this before," said Mr Harold Scruby, executive director of Ausflag, who has run two previous national flag design competitions. "I think the biggest change is the mood of reconciliation in the nation," he said.

Ausflag′s executive director Harold Scruby in the SMH, April 16, 1996:

THE Australian flag fails its primary purpose of uniting the Australian people. Trying to block the inevitable proclamation of our own flag by artificial barriers will fail because of this very point.

The SMH, August 25, 1999:

MR Scruby . . . told the ABC that regardless of the republic referendum outcome, "the Australian flag will change. It′s just a matter of when."

John Huxley, again, in the SMH, January 31, 2009:

IN recent years, agitation for change, led by groups such as Ausflag, has stalled, the nation′s pulse gone untaken. A 2004 Newspoll, however, revealed that as many as 32 per cent of respondents favoured changing the Australian flag to remove the Union Jack emblem, which recognises the history of British settlement. A further 11 per cent were uncommitted. It was a decidedly mixed message, one that even Ausflag′s tireless executive director, Harold Scruby, concedes is unlikely to gain the urgent attention of either another conservative, albeit apologetic, prime minister, or of a nation that has far more pressing financial issues to worry about for the foreseeable future. What is clear is that moves for flags to be banned at Australia Day events, such as those advocated by worried organisers of the Big Day Out music festival two years ago, are undesirable, unworkable and highly unpopular.

Let′s milk some patriotism. ABC radio news item yesterday:

DAIRY farmers are furious at plans by supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths to reduce the price of their milk . . . Spokesman Chris Griffin says the move could destroy the local dairy industry, as other producers struggle to compete. "In the longer term, we believe it is a threat to the industry and to do it on Australia Day, it′s not what you′d call the Australian thing to do, as far as we′re concerned," he said.

Patriotism misplaced. News item in Tuesday′s Copenhagen Post:

CROWN Princess Mary is a lousy Australian. According to Australian lads′ magazine Zoo, she is the third least Australian Australian. Leading up to tomorrow′s Australia Day, Zoo magazine has come up with an "Un-Australian of the Year" list. Mary comes in at third on the list, with the main reason being that she′s started speaking Australian with a Danish accent. Only two other Australians beat her to the post. At No 2 was none other than God, because of all the recent flooding in the country. But neither God nor a princess could match WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who topped the list by "continually dobbing on others and not being able to keep top-secret information to himself. Very Un-Oz!"