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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1249


Senator WALTERS(5.58) —We have before us the Flags Amendment Bill which is a private member's Bill introduced by the shadow Attorney-General, Senator Durack. That there is a need for this Bill is a disgrace to the government of the day. The need for this Bill is very clear. It is necessary as a result of the action of one man, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), who stood up one day when it suited him best and said off the top of his head: 'We will change the national anthem and, by the way blokes, I do not like the words. They are too sexist. We will change those too'. That is the reason why the shadow Attorney-General has introduced this private member's Bill. The need for this Bill has been demonstrated very clearly by our Prime Minister. We have never needed this sort of Bill in the past. There has never been any suggestion that the people of Australia have felt any disloyalty to their flag, but we certainly have heard that suggestion now.

All sorts of surreptitious things have been going on. One day when it suited him best the Prime Minister stood up and said: 'We will change the anthem and we will change the words too. We do not like them. They are sexist. We will not stick by the time-honoured English language. We will change the words '' Australia's sons let us rejoice'' to ''Australians all let us rejoice''.' There has been no debate in this Parliament by the people elected by the outside community. This would-be President decided to take it on his own shoulders. We have seen the way he works.

As I said, very surreptitious things clearly are going on in the community of which the people out there are completely unaware. As a whole, not many people travel overseas, but those who do and who go to get their passports will suddenly find that the crown has gone. The crown is no longer on passports. There was no suggestion that it be removed. Nothing was said by the Prime Minister or anyone else that the crown was going to disappear from passports. It just happened overnight. I guess the Prime Minister just said: 'Take it off'. It is just another step towards the republic that the Prime Minister wants to create.

There has been quite a lot of talk about bringing in the new flag for the bicentennary. I assure the Government that will not happen. It will not be in power. There is no way that it will be in power in 1988. But the Government thinks it will be and the Prime Minister is so arrogant that he thinks that by 1988 there will not only be a new anthem and the crown scrubbed from the passport, but also a new flag. There is no way the Australian people will put up with that. We know that in the Boyer lectures he said that a republic would be a good idea. He made that very clear. He is a centralist who thinks we are over- governed and do not need the States. He thinks the one parliament, the Federal Parliament with him as its head, is all Australia needs.

The crown has gone from our passports and the flag may go. The Prime Minister would have us deny the Queen in our oath of allegiance. We would no longer swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen. Indeed, all we have to do is abide by the laws of the country. The Queen is no longer mentioned in the oath of allegiance. Only one small step is needed to turn this country into a republic if this lot ever get back into power after the election. We should perhaps have a look at a bit of history of our flag, because as Senator Durack said-


Senator Grimes —Beauty!


Senator WALTERS —Senator Grimes has just said 'Oh, well, here we go'. He is not interested in the history of this flag. He is not interested in the slightest. He just groans when we mention the history of the flag. He is a Minister of the Crown who has already sworn allegiance to her Majesty. Maybe with this lot the Prime Minister took that out too. I would not know. But the people of Australia would not know because they are the last to learn when these sorts of things happen. Despite what Senator Grimes might groan about let us look at the history of our flag, because in 1901 we had a competition and our flag was chosen at that time. It was flown for the first time, as Senator Durack said in the second reading speech, at 2.30 p.m. on 3 September 1901. The Prime Minister of the day, Edmund Barton, said:

. . . it was apparent . . . that a Commonwealth flag, to be representative, should contain:

the Union Jack on a blue or red ground;

a six-pointed ''star'' representing the six federated States of Australia, immediately under the Union Jack and pointing direct to the centre of St George' s Cross, and of a size to occupy the major portion of one quarter of the flag;

the Southern Cross in the flag has been indicative of sentiment of the Australian nation.

What is wrong with that? It shows our history, our association with Britain and the Southern Cross, which is very dear to the Australian people. There is nothing wrong with it at all and so say the majority of Australians. Indeed, 61 per cent of Australians say: 'Save our flag'. That appeal is one to save our flag from our Prime Minister because it is the Prime Minister who wants to destroy it. Let us get it very clear. Sixty-one per cent say we should save our flag, and 34 per cent say we should change it. What on earth do the people who want to change it want to change it to? They cannot even get together and decide that. We have had all sorts of suggestions. There has been a suggestion that we put a koala bear in the top corner. They ask that the Union Jack be removed and that British connotations be removed. What are we asked to put in place of the Union Jack? Would it be a koala bear or a kangaroo? Whatever those who want to change the flag say, they cannot agree. It does not matter what it is. They want different colours; the Eureka flag; some want green and gold. Whatever it is they cannot agree.

The flag is prescribed by the Flags Act 1953. However, under that legislation the Governor-General can appoint such other flags and ensigns of Australia as he sees fit. What we are concerned about-this is why the shadow Attorney-General brought forward his private member's Bill-is frankly that we do not trust the Prime Minister. We believe that he may well advise the Governor-General to appoint a new flag for any odd occasion. In particular, if he could get away with it, he would ask the Governor-General to appoint a special flag that he can raise over the new Parliament House in 1988. I do not for one little minute believe that he will raise the flag over Parliament House in 1988. I believe he will raise a flag of his own design. It does not matter what it costs, but if he is in office he will raise a flag of his own design. The Australian people will not see that happen.


Senator Sibraa —What nonsense!


Senator WALTERS —We will see just what he does on those occasions.


Senator Macklin —Come on, Kerry. You get into the debate.


Senator WALTERS —Senator Macklin just challenged Government members to enter the debate. There is only one Government senator willing to put a case forward either for a new flag or for a change of flag. On the list of speakers we have Liberal and National Party members one after the other. The Democrats have one speaker, only one out of the five of them, but the Labor Party members are just not interested. I wonder why they are not interested. It would not be that they are perhaps showing their colours a bit early. Would it be that if they stood up and protected the Australian flag they would put the Prime Minister on a spot? Would they be prepared to stand up and be honest and say: 'Yes, that is our intention. We are going to change the flag, and by 1988 you will see what we put up'?

During a visit to Pakistan I and a group of people were feeling quite insecure because we could not find accommodation. We got into a taxi and said: 'Take us to the Australian embassy'. I can assure the Senate that, after feeling fairly insecure all day, the sight of the Australian flag at the embassy gave me a wonderful feeling and did a tremendous amount for my morale. I can just imagine the feelings of the soldiers who served in both world wars. I think, as Senator Durack said in his second reading speech, this is perhaps best explained by the story related by Mr Frank Cayley in his excellent book Flag of Stars. I would like to read that story:

The first allied flag raised in Singapore after the Japanese surrender in 1945 was an Australian ensign that had been made in secret by Australian prisoners of war.

A small Union Jack, which has escaped discovery during the many searches made by Japanese guards, was stretched onto the corner of some blue material ' borrowed' from Japanese stores; handkerchiefs from Red Cross parcels provided the necessary white for the Commonwealth star and the stars of the Southern Cross-and the flag was in readiness when news was heard by secret radio that Japanese surrender was imminent. When surrender came, the flag was raised over ' X3' working camp at Bukit Panjang and later over AIF headquarters at Changi.

I am appalled that Government members are not entering this debate. I am appalled that they are not willing to stand up in the Senate and say just how they feel about whether or not the Australian flag ought to be maintained.


Senator Grimes —Don't be stupid. I am speaking after you.


Senator WALTERS —There are a dozen names on the list of speakers, of which Senator Button is the only Government speaker. Maybe I have created a challenge. Senator Grimes has now belatedly decided that he is going to enter the debate too. I can assure Senator Grimes that I am referring to the official speakers' list put out before this debate started. Senator Grimes has accepted the challenge and has decided that he will speak after all. I will be very interested to hear what he says. He should be careful that he does not commit himself too strongly because he does not know for sure what his boss is going to do. He might find himself out on a limb.


Senator Boswell —The Leader of the Government is giving him his riding instructions.


Senator WALTERS —As Senator Boswell says, he has just had his riding instructions from Senator Button. The advocates of a new flag will resort to anything at all. They accused Prince Charles of wanting a new Australian flag and Prince Charles had to enter the public arena and deny that charge and say that he had never pressed for a new flag. Mr Scrubby, the secretary of Ausflag, said that he believed it was a shame that Prince Charles had not entered the debate. These people use all sorts of devious means. However, I believe that the Australian people understand exactly what they are up to.

I will be interested to hear what Senator Grimes says. He says he is following me in this debate. I do not know where he is on the speakers' list. As far as I can see, Senator Kilgariff is to follow me. If Senator Grimes is to speak after me he had better hurry back into the chamber because I have finished my remarks.