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Wednesday, 2 May 1984
Page: 1487

Senator MARTIN —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment. It refers to an advertisement in a national newspaper for the sale of flags, T-shirts and car bumper stickers which contains an illustration of a flag sub-titled: 'The No. 1 Contender for the 1988 New Flag Job'. I ask whether the following statement in the advertisement is true:

The highlight of Australia's Bi-centennial Celebration in 1988 will be the gaining, at long last, of our own distinctively Australian National Flag. That defaced British Blue Ensign, presently masquerading as our National Flag will be replaced.

Is this a statement of Hawke Government policy? If so, why has the Government not made a public announcement to that effect? With reference to the advertisement's statement 'Opinion polls now show that the No. 1 Contender for our new Flag is the beautiful flag design shown above', does the Government have any knowledge of which opinion polls this advertisement refers to? If so, will the Government make full details of those polls publicly available? If, however, these claims in the advertisement are fabricated, will the Government consider prosecution under section 53 of the Trade Practices Act for promotion for sale of goods depicting this flag design which people could reasonably believe from the wording of the advertisement to have some official approval?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The matter is more properly directed to the Minister representing the Special Minister of State, who is responsible for national symbols and anthems, songs, flags, colours and all the rest of the things that wax passion so indignant and eloquent on the other side of the chamber. The reality of the matter is that the Government has made no decision whatsoever of any kind in relation to the question of a new flag. There have been some suggestions canvassed in various quarters, notably at the instance of the Ausflag organisation, that there ought to be some kind of national competition or perhaps some kind of inquiry-possibly a bipartisan parliamentary inquiry, possibly again, some kind of externally constituted inquiry. Some further consideration will be given to these options by the Government in due course, but no consideration has been given at the moment nor is any such consideration imminent. As to the question of whether any prosecution might be appropriate under the Trade Practices Act for false and misleading advertising, I think that is stretching a very long bow indeed. But I will refer the matter to my advisers and the Trade Practices Commission to see whether they think there might be some prima facie grounds for such action.

Senator Martin —That is very specific in section 53 which I mentioned in my question.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I appreciate that all sorts of things are claimed to be false and misleading advertising or in other ways to satisfy the other provisions in Part V of the Act.

Senator Martin —Representing goods less than honestly.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I have indicated that the matter will be looked at to see whether there is any basis for any such action. On the face of it, I would think it unlikely.