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Thursday, 15 October 1992
Page: 2197

Mr HAWKER (9.47 a.m.) —I present the Flags Amendment Bill 1992. Yet again the coalition presents this Flags Amendment Bill, the purpose of which is to make it quite clear that the Australian flag will not be changed before a referendum is put to the people of Australia.

  It is significant to note that there are already two other private members' Bills on the Notice Paper on the question of the Australian flag. One of those has come from the Senate, which has already passed the Bill. I think it therefore adds to the pressure on the Government to accept that this Bill should be passed by this chamber also and therefore become law.

  The other Bill is one that has been placed there by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr Hewson), so this Bill reinforces that. I pose a very serious question to the Government: why is it, when this Bill has been presented to the Parliament on at least six occasions, that the Government refuses to accept it and refuses to allow a vote on it? As all honourable members would have noticed, every Thursday morning petitions come into this Parliament in large numbers supporting this point of view. Yet the Government continues to refuse to listen to it. Therefore, one has to very seriously question Government's motives.

  On the question of support for the Australian flag, an opinion poll was published in the Age in May this year. It showed what everyone in this chamber would probably know: it reinforced the point that 60 per cent of Australians want to keep the Australian flag as it is. So why is it that the Government refuses to put this to the test by accepting this Bill? If it continues to push for change to the Australian flag, as the Prime Minister has been so keen to do this year, this ought to be put to a simple referendum of the Australian people.

  There are many who hold the view that the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) has been attacking our flag so vocally over the last few months as nothing more than a diversionary tactic to try to take attention away from the fact that the Government's economic record is so appalling, is so abysmal; that we have unemployment of around 11 per cent and it seems to be stuck there; that this Government basically has deserted its own supporters, the working men and women of Australia—

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member might come back to the matter before the House.

Mr HAWKER —Yes, Mr Speaker. The point is that the Prime Minister has been attacking the Australian flag on a number of occasions. He even went so far as to attack it recently while he was overseas. It is quite extraordinary for a Prime Minister of this country to take the opportunity while overseas, while visiting a neighbour of ours, to attack our flag.

Mr Bruce Scott —Shameful.

Mr HAWKER —It is indeed shameful, as my colleague the honourable member for Maranoa says. But this Bill would give all the men and women of Australia the opportunity to have their say on whether the Australian flag should be changed.

  It is interesting to note that, despite the fact that there is widespread support for the existing flag, the Prime Minister, according to press reports of May this year, was still pressing ahead for plans for a new Australian flag. We have not heard too much about it recently but, according to those reports, he was certainly prepared to push for a new design and to push for an alternative despite the support of the majority of Australians for the existing flag. There is no doubt that my earlier remarks that this was a diversionary tactic stand well and truly unchallenged, because it clearly was.

  I present this Bill once more. I urge the Government to allow the Bill to be passed this time so that we will not see a change to the Australian flag without a simple referendum in which the people of Australia can have their say on this very important national symbol.

  Bill read a first time.

Mr SPEAKER —In accordance with sessional order 104A, the second reading will be made an order of the day for the next sitting Thursday.