Heroes flag a change

Telegraph Mirror, 19 August 1994, p.1.

By Frank Zeller

The Australian flag should be changed to make it more strongly symbolic of our independence and the Constitution should be rewritten to make the nation a republic, say Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games gold medalists. But most of our gold medalists are happy to retain Advance Australia Fair as the national anthem.

A Newspoll survey conducted exclusively for The Daily Telegraph Mirror the eve of the Commonwealth Games says a majority of Commonwealth and Olympic winners are in favour of changing the flag, and in favour of our becoming a republic. Slightly more than half the medalists interviewed - 53 per cent - believe we should become a republic, with about a quarter strongly in favour of the change.

Significantly, the survey indicates that the gold medalists are far more supportive of the republican cause than the general public. A national Newspoll conducted in March this year revealed that only 39 per cent of the general public supported the idea of changing our system of government to a republic.

And despite their shared and highly emotional experience of standing on a dais as the Australian flag is raised in their honour, our gold medalists are also more in favour of changing the national banner than the broad population. Six out of 10 medalists interviewed believe the flag design should be changed either as soon as possible - 8 per cent - or in the future - 51 per cent. Only 36 per cent felt the flag should never be changed. A year ago, a Newspoll survey indicated only 35 per cent of ordinary Australians were in favour of a new flag.

But perhaps surprisingly, the stirring strains of Advance Australia Fair are sweet music to the ears of our golden group. Of the 61 gold medalists who took part in the Newspoll survey, 79 per cent said they were happy with the national anthem, and did not wish to see it changed - roughly in line with the 74 per cent of Australian adults who see no need for a new national song.

Swimming great Murray Rose, who won gold at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 and in Rome four years later, said although he had been absent from Australia for a long period of time, he perceived "a trend" towards a republic. "The question is - when should we do it when will the time be right," he said. "It doesn′t have to happen tomorrow, but if the change were accomplished at the millennium, that would be appropriate. And I think it would be fitting if we were able to unveil a new flag when we host the Olympics in the year 2000."

Shane Gould-Innes, who won three swimming gold medals at the Munich Games in 1972, shares Rose′s views. "I think it′s time for a republic, it′ll happen soon the way we′re going," she said. "I′d also like to see the flag and the Union Jack go, but I don′t know what design or colours the new flag should have."

Olympic hockey gold medalist Sharon Buchanan, who captained Australia to victory in Seoul in 1998, said it was time to "sever the apron strings" with Britain, and a new flag design would be an important symbol of such a change. "I′d like to see Australia become a republic, while remaining a member of the Commonwealth," she said.

Swimmer Karen Moras, who won three Commonwealth gold medals in 1970, said she was "yet to be convinced" a change to a republic was necessary. "I haven′t heard any good reasons to change It from the way it is yet," said Moras, who is now known as Karen Moras Stephenson. When she competed God Save the Queen was still the national anthem. "I′m glad we don′t have that anthem anymore. Advance Australia Fair is a lot nicer, and it means more to us."

A survey of Australian gold medalists found...

53% Favour becoming a republic.
59% Want a new flag.
79% Think the present national anthem should be retained.

Should Australia become a republic?  

25%
28%
53%

16%
16%
32%

15%


Should we change the flag?  

8%
51%
59%

36%

5%


Do you favour keeping our present national anthem?  

53%
26%
79%

8%
5%
13%

8%


What song would you choose if the anthem was reconsidered?  

49%
21%
8%
7%
7%
0%
7%
1%