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Monday, 16 September 1985
Page: 611

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(10.42) —I speak in the adjournment debate this evening at the request of a group of citizens in the State of New South Wales and the city of Sydney who have been engaged in seeking to obtain the support of their fellow citizens for the existing Australian flag. The group concerned has written to me under the letterhead of the Patriotic Research Council of Australia. It has advised me that it is running a campaign to keep the Australian flag in its present design. On Anzac Day 1984, Australia Day 1985 and Anzac Day again this year the group collected several thousand signatures on individual petition forms informing the Governor-General that they wanted the flag to remain unaltered. On Anzac Day 1985 the group also had about 1,000 snap poll votes signed showing that the great majority of people who came to its table were in favour of the present flag. A sample of the forms was sent to me and I was asked to have recorded in Hansard the result of that vote. The numbers which have been advised to me by the group are that, of the 908 individual poll forms that were signed, 861 voted to save the Australian flag in its present form and 47 voted to change it.

Of course, the Opposition has put through the Senate a Bill which requires the Government, if it should wish to change the Australian flag, to go to the Australian people and to have a referendum. That Bill was not opposed in the Senate when it was passed after being introduced in this place on behalf of the Opposition by Senator Durack. It had been the hope of the Opposition, given the Government's at least tacit support of the proposal that the Opposition put forward, that the Bill would be dealt with in the House of Representatives. That has not been done and on this occasion I request the Government to consider putting the Bill through so that the shape and form of the Australian flag can be a matter which comes within the control of the Australian people rather than any particular government.

On behalf of this group of people who have raised this matter with me, I am pleased to record in Hansard the result of their efforts. I hope that the Government will accede to the Opposition's view that control of the flag should be a matter for the Australian people. That might take out some of the heat which is evident in the current debate surrounding the competition for a new flag and which does seem to attract a quite passionate view on both sides, if one has been reading some of the correspondence columns in, for example, the Bulletin. One feels that people really do have a most violent attachment to the flag-of course some have a violent attachment the other way-and I think that, if there was a general view that it was in the hands of the people rather than any particular government, that might enable a more sober assessment on this important issue. I commend to the Government for its consideration the views of the group.