The cross still stars on Ausflag no. 9

The Australian, Tuesday 28 January 1997, p.2.

By Fiona Carruthers

Ausflag yesterday released its ninth favoured new design in 17 years, reflecting a decade of research showing the majority of the population prefers the Southern Cross to the kangaroo. The flag – featuring the Southern Cross in a central blue panel bordered by red side panels – also reflects the community′s consistent preference for the colours red, white and blue.

"Simplicity still leads the pack", said the executive director of Ausflag and designer of the new flag, Mr Harold Scruby. "This flag is very conservative. It′s really a minimalist change that moves from being a colonial flag to a potential national flag." Ausflag co-chairmen Mr Nick Greiner and Mr Nicholas Whitlam stressed the design was only an idea, and urged Aboriginal leaders to contribute their talents and ideas to the process.

Almost 50,000 designs have been submitted since Ausflag was founded in 1981, but its board of 16 has approved only a handful to be flown. The board comprises national identities, business people, union leaders and former politicians, among them casino executive Ms Anna Booth, entrepreneur Mrs Janet Holmes a Court, general manager of United Airlines Australia Ms Anne Keating and broadcaster Phillip Adams.

The majority of new designs rework the existing flag without the Union Jack, but some have tested images of Uluru, the kangaroo and parts of the Aboriginal flag. As the new design was hoisted outside Sydney Town Hall yesterday, Mr Greiner and Mr Whitlam urged the Federal Government to change the flag before 2000. Mr Whitlam said Australia should have a flag that dispensed with the Union Jack before the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and the Centenary of Federation in 2001.

"I don′t think (the Federal Government) could be accused of Phar Lap like speed," Mr Greiner said. "The Prime Minister (Mr Howard)... is conservative on the issue... we would like to push him to accelerate process a bit. This is not an easy decision... it′s not unreasonable that some people in the body politic want to move more slowly."

Fifteen year-olds Vivienne Whitlock and Kate Lee-Perry, from Bellingen on the NSW north coast agreed: a new flag should be settled upon as soon as possible. However, they dismissed the Ausflag design as dull and lacking the impact of colours and images recognisable as being Australian. "I′m not proud to have the Union Jack on my flag," said Vivienne. "At least that′s gone, but a new flag needs to be a bit more cultural." Kate thought the design still had "nothing to do with Australia. I′d like more Aboriginal symbolism. It′s a bit boring."