It's time for a flag that unites our people

The Newcastle Herald, 26 January 2006.

Australia has the world′s most unpopular national flag.

If you ask citizens of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, France or any other Western democracy whether they think their own national flag should be changed, in almost every case fewer than 10 per cent think so.

The dissatisfaction level rises to 40 per cent in New Zealand, but Australia tops the world, with half the population expressing "no confidence" in our current flag design.

Support for the current Australian flag peaked in the early 1960s at about 70 per cent. Since then, support has declined steadily at an average of half a per cent per year.

Whena monopoly product with over 100 years of free advertising and pump-priming by government still doesn′t have resounding popular support, there is only one possible conclusion – the product is faulty.

We are now at a crossroad with our flag, and with the riots in Cronulla in Sydney last December, we also have a very dangerous development in how the Australian flag is used.

Ausflag has always been aware that the Union Jack in the corner could be used as a cultural and racial wedge: a means by which white Anglo Australians could remind everyone else that "you are not, and will never be, considered truly Australian".

Regrettably the Cronulla riots saw this come to pass. Never before has this country seen the national flag used so aggressively to put non-Anglos back in their place.

But the signs have beenthere for a long time. Most white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in Australia bind themselves root-and-branch to the Union Jackon our flag.

When One Nation burst onto the scene, Pauline Hanson was photographed draped in the flag, the Union Jack proudly on her shoulder. Those who profess to love the current flag need to reflect deeply on what has happened at Cronulla.

Are they troubled that the flag is now being used for overtly racist and divisive purposes? Do they care that more and more Australians find this alienating and offensive?

Some argue that removing the Union Jack will somehow betray "our" heritage. But the Union Jack is not heritage to everyone, and to suggest that "heritage" can only be satisfactorily symbolised by stealing the flag of another country and bunging it in the corner demonstrates a serious lack of imagination.

The way forward is simple. Ausflag has a detailed plan for how Australia can democratically choose a new flag, culminating in a national vote of the top one or two designs against the incumbent.

Remaining on the current path is not an option. The present flag will continue to decline in popularity and eventually be overthrown in disgrace and dishonour when its approval rating falls into the teens.

Or we can retire this flag gracefully and democratically, and give Australia a flag which represents inclusion and tolerance - and is never waved at a racist rally again.

Brendan Jones is a director of Ausflag.