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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1251


Senator KILGARIFF(6.16) —In speaking to the Flags Amendment Bill 1984, which was introduced by the shadow Attorney-General, Senator Durack, I support the view of my colleagues and the vast majority of Australian people that our national flag, which flew first in 1901, has become the symbol and standard of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is the flag under which Australians have fought and died, and there can be no greater example of the strength of feeling for the flag and what it has come to represent to Australians than the example of those who laid down their lives under that flag in many wars. Happily, today the flag is not called upon to provide a symbol for Australian soldiers. It is much more likely to be raised as a standard for victorious athletes. For example, the familiar Australian flag which was raised in recognition of the victories of our olympians in Los Angeles recently has come to represent the diversities within Australian society as much as our history.

Those who oppose the retention of the Australian flag or oppose alternatives have suggested that it does not reflect the increasingly diverse nature of the Australian population. That assertion does not appear to be supported by the surveys conducted to gauge attitudes towards the flag and the suggestion that it might be changed. In the Northern Territory, for instance, a private poll revealed that only 40 per cent of people were in favour of some change to the flag while 60 per cent of those polled expressed in very strong terms the view that the flag should be retained. In a poll conducted by the Bulletin, of which mention has been made, 66 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of retaining the present flag and in another gallup poll 61 per cent were in favour of retaining the flag. This is a quite reasonable majority of people.

I submit that amongst those people polled one would find a fair proportion of people who were either not born in this country or whose parents were not born here. It is ludicrous to suggest that those people would not be able to identify or feel an affinity with our flag. The clear indications are that most Australians not only have no desire to change the flag but also feel very strongly indeed that it should be retained. That is what this amending Bill is designed to do, and I congratulate Senator Durack for introducing it. The amendment will protect the flag which Australians obviously wish to retain.

Earlier this year the Hawke Government, without discussion, changed the national anthem from God Save the Queen to Advance Australia Fair. It apparently did not consider that the Australian people had a right to be consulted on the issue. This Government of consensus is apparently prepared to extend that principle only as far as it suits it. Under the previous Government the Australian people were at least accorded the right to express their preference for a national song. They chose Advance Australia Fair. That song should not have been elevated to the national anthem without a similar poll being held. The Australian people were not accorded an opportunity to express their opinion.

The refusal of Government senators to accept this amending Bill can be taken as an indication that the Government very likely has similar ideas about changing the flag, without recourse to the opinion of the Australian people. This whole question extends further than the flag and the national anthem. It reflects on the fact that we have a socialist government which is determined to downgrade our ties with the United Kingdom and the monarchy in general. Another example of this downgrading is apparent in the supply of Australian flags to schools and community groups. This incident has apparently happened recently. The previous Government used to present not only flags to groups such as those I have mentioned but also a cassette, one side of which contained God Save the Queen and the other side Advance Australia Fair. God Save the Queen has been dumped.


Senator Grimes —Did we not have a referendum?


Senator KILGARIFF —I have covered that situation. No doubt the Government has it in mind to replace the present flag with a symbol such as the Eureka flag. That flag flies these days over strike bound building sites. One wonders which Australians that flag represents. This amendment to the Act will strengthen and reinforce the flag as the standard of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Government and our nation. I say that the Government's opposition to this amendment shows clearly that it intends to attempt to alter the flag. This amendment would not totally preclude that possibility. All it asks is that before any such change is effected, the Australian people are consulted.


Senator Macklin —You don't even know yet.


Senator KILGARIFF —Apparently there has been a strong indication. As I was saying, I believe that the Australian people should be consulted, and they have every right to be consulted. I say to Senator Macklin that we will give them a chance. A rejection of this Bill will demonstrate the Government's contempt for the rights of Australians and show up the intentions which lurk beneath the Government's veneer of consensus. I strongly support this Bill, as have others this afternoon, which was introduced by Senator Durack, the shadow Attorney- General. I believe he is to be congratulated for bringing this very important matter before the Senate and giving the Senate the opportunity of expressing its views and, I believe, the views of the majority of Australians.