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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1263

Senator BOSWELL(8.55) —The Flags Amendment Bill 1984 before us today deserves support and I am glad to say that the Government will support it in this House. I hope that it is given a speedy passage in the other place because the flag belongs to the people of Australia. It is their flag. At the moment it can be changed by a Federal Executive Council decision calling on the Governor-General in an Executive Council minute to alter the flag. Whilst the Bill has been introduced in this House by the shadow Attorney-General, I think that the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron) deserves to be commended for his actual research on the Bill.

I will take Senator Grimes to task on a couple of issues. He made mention of the fact that a referendum was called on the issue of the national anthem. The fact is that the referendum was called to choose a national song. People voted in that referendum for a national song not a change to the national anthem. That must be made very clear to the Senate and to the people of Australia. I was one who voted for Advance Australia Fair as the national song but not as the national anthem.

A number of people are concerned because they feel the stealth with which the Government changed the national anthem could be repeated and that the national flag could be up for the same treatment. This is why it is absolutely essential to vote for and to pass this legislation to ensure that the stealth that the government used not only in changing the national anthem but also in taking away the Queen's Medal, in reducing imperial honours and its actions on a number of other issues are not repeated.

Previous speakers have covered a great deal of these issues but the facts remain that people are terribly worried about the Government's stealth, because on 26 January 1984, only a matter of six or seven months ago, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) said:

Again, I take the view that there is a strong case for Australia's distinctive emblem . . . I think as with the issue of the republic, that some time down the track, then it will probably be changed to reflect our distinctive Australianism .

The chief law officer of the land, the Attorney-General, Senator Gareth Evans, has been vocal in his advocacy of changes to the Australian flag by 1988. In answer to the question, 'Is Australia moving closer to a republic?', Mr Hawke answered:

Personally I believe that this is something that ought to and will happen at some stage.

So the Prime Minister of Australia has said that he wants a republic. Senator Grimes who is sitting opposite, said: 'Why should we worry? We have plenty of other things on our plate'. Senator Grimes can sit over there and laugh but his Leader has said that he wants a republic. I believe that this is the whole issue which is at stake: In 1988 honourable senators opposite would like to see a republic and have a new flag rise over the new Parliament House of Australia.

Senator Jessop —With a hawk on it.

Senator BOSWELL —With a hawk on it. The Prime Minister in the Boyer lectures called again for a republic in Australia. The Returned Services League has expressed concern on this issue. Its members have continued to express their desire to keep the Australian flag as it is. I think we have to support their conviction. For them to change the flag would be a complete sellout to every Australian who has gone to war in the two world wars and in other conflicts. These people deserve some recognition of their contribution to Australia.

At a recent Queensland local government conference, a resolution supporting the continuance of the present flag was overwhelmingly carried. Only three or four Australian Labor Party controlled councils in the whole of Queensland voted against the motion. Every poll that has been taken shows that around 64 per cent to 65 per cent of the people of Australia support the present Australian flag and do not want any change to it. Absolutely no change is needed and no change is asked for.

Senator Grimes —There is no change suggested.

Senator BOSWELL —There is a change suggested. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General have been quoted time and time as saying that they want to change the flag. They know, of course, that that would be electorally unpopular at the moment; the point is that they would like to do it. I am glad that the Government will support this legislation. It may be appropriate now to look at the position with regard to the manufacturing of the flag in Australia. I am glad Senator Grimes finds this amusing. Sixty-seven per cent of the people-

Senator Grimes —You're sick.

Senator BOSWELL —I call on the Minister to withdraw that remark. I find it offensive.

Senator Grimes —I withdraw. I am sorry you are so sensitive.

Senator BOSWELL —Thank you. The position at the moment in Australia is that a number of flag manufacturers are being put out of business because the Government has given contracts for the bicentenary flag and the Australian flag to be manufactured in New Zealand.

Senator Grimes —That is not true. The Government did not do that.

Senator BOSWELL —The Australian Bicentennial Authority, a semi-government department, did. I accept Senator Grimes's point on that. It is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs when semi-government departments buy flags and Australian symbols outside Australia with taxpayers' money. I ask the Minister whether he can, and I call upon him to--

Senator Grimes —What are you saying?

Senator BOSWELL —I ask Senator Grimes to see whether he can remedy the situation whereby the bicentenary flags are being manufactured in New Zealand.

Senator Grimes —They complained about that when your Government was in too, and it did nothing about it.

Senator BOSWELL —Nevertheless, it should not happen. I call upon the Minister's Government to see that it does not happen and that the Australian flag manufacturers receive the contracts for the bicentenary flags.

While recognising that the Australian flag is a symbol of our nation, we should also recognise that this flag at an earlier stage was made from Australian wool. We can all recognise the great contribution that the Australian wool industry has made to this nation. This nation has risen to greatness on the sheep's back. Until a few years ago the flag was made from a woollen fibre; it is now made from a petro-chemical substance. I would think there would be no greater honour we could bestow on the Australian wool industry to recognise its contribution to this nation than to have the Australian symbol, the Australian flag, made out of the Australian fibre-wool. In 1988 I would like to see the national flag flying over the new Parliament House, a flag made of Australian fibre in recognition of the great contribution that the wool industry has made to Australia.