Do we have an Australian flag?

Letter to the Editor, The Age, 26 June 2004

This week the Prime Minister challenged the nation′s schools to fly the Australian flag as a patriotic symbol. But do we really have an Australian flag?

Earlier this year, my wife and I attended a Grandparents Day concert at the local primary school. Both state and federal flags were spread out on the wall at the back of the concert stage. On the state flag was the Union Jack of Britain, England′s Cross of St George and the British Lion; on the federal flag, again the Union Jack and a sprinkling of stars. Overseas visitors, of which there were a few, might well have wondered whether they had been transported to a school in Britain.

If Australian champions gain the victory dais at the Olympic Games, they will now hear an Australian anthem, thanks to the good sense of a previous government. Surely the time has come when they can look up and see a flag that is also truly Australian.

Of course, the current flag is a proud part of our history and always will be. But our flag should represent the nation as it is today. It should not be a relic of another time and another nation.

Actions speak louder than words and John Howard himself has been signalling the need for a change for several years - ever since the night when, newly installed as Prime Minister, he made his first address to the nation.

On that night, sitting proudly at his desk, with the flag at his side, Mr Howard might have been the Prime Minister of Britain - for the flag, which fell in its natural folds, displayed only the Union Jack! Ever since, when Mr Howard or his ministers stage an address, the flag has to be carefully manipulated to hide the Union Jack as much as possible. Even the two flags we see in the Senate during Parliament′s question time are similarly convoluted to bring the Commonwealth Star to the fore and conceal the Union Jack. Will schools be required to do the same?

This sad spectacle clearly demonstrates that it is no longer appropriate to have the flag of another nation as part of our own. A new flag is needed with which all Australians can identify, one which our Prime Minister may display without reservation or embarrassment.