Aussie flag polls unfurl some discomforting facts for foes of the Union Jack

An anti-Royalist tosser by name of Chris Ford, describing himself as a freelance writer and researcher based in Dunedin, should be hauled off to the Tower. But maybe he could plead he is mentally unfit to stand trial for lèse- majesté, sedition or some-such offence against the realm. That’s because he says on his blog he takes a left democratic socialist/social democratic perspective on the political issues of the day, and Alf reckons anybody who takes that position is intellectually enfeebled.

Today this Ford bugger is is championing the New Zealand Herald campaign for a new flag.

This was reinforced to me recently while crossing the Anzac Bridge in Sydney. Atop the bridge fly the two flags of the Anzac nations. Personally (along with most New Zealanders) I can distinguish our flag from the Australian ensign. However, to a foreign visitor who is not familiar with Australasia, it can be confusing to discern one flag from another.

Australia and New Zealand’s respective decisions to adopt the British Union Jack ensign design and the Southern Cross at dominionhood a century ago has created this confusion. Besides, the retention of the Union Jack in the top left hand corner of both flags has some visitors probably thinking that we are still distant colonies of the UK. Probably it has had to be pointed out to some visitors on occasion that we’re not.

Ford thinks that because Australia is moving towards becoming a republic they will want a new flag which better represents Australia’s modern national identity. But maybe not, as Alf will point out further on in this post. There is strong opinion poll evidence to show Aussies want to keep their flag.

Good on them.

Ford nevertheless contends…

We are moving (albeit at a slower pace) in the same direction. But a flag change for us shouldn’t come at the time when we eventually become a republic. As the Canadians have shown, it can be achieved while the Queen is still head of state. Their simple red maple leaf flag design, adopted in 1965 (just two years before the centennial of the Canadian federation), reflects their identity as a nation with a dual British-French heritage.

Ford muses that maybe any new flag should incorporate “the excellent tino rangatiratanga design” in some way, which means he has no problem with a flag bearing the symbol of a Maori urge for separatism. Provocative, eh?

He goes on –

And, being a socialist, I would favour the retention of the red stars representing the Southern Cross.

There are red bits in the Union Jack, too.

But Ford does not suggest we should hold on to the Union Jack. That’s where he and staunch monarchists like Alf part company.

Ford should look again at what’s happening in Australia, of course.

The Herald today carries a fascinating report from its corresponent in Oz.

Twenty years of opinion polling and the backlash every time a new flag is proposed show a deeply entrenched resistance to replacing the 109-year-old national standard.

The report tells us about a bloke called Tony Hughes, a 40-year-old tree-lopper from southern New South Wales.

“I don’t have an issue with getting rid of the Queen because I think she doesn’t do much for us anyway,” he said. “We’re not Poms. We’ve got our own identity.

“However, the flag is a different story. It’s what my grandfather fought under and if it’s good enough for him to fight for our country under, it’s good enough for me to be proud of.

“As far as I’m concerned, if it gets changed then I’m not an Australian any more.”

Good on him. But he is not alone. Three polls were taken in the heat of Australia Day’s renewed debate about Australia’s future.

And here’s what they found –

A Galaxy poll in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph suggested only 27 per cent of Australians wanted to remove the Union Jack, and 45 per cent wanted to keep the present flag

An internet poll on the ABC site The Pump suggested 57 per cent opposed change, and another on put opposition to a new flag at 62.8 per cent.

Australian Monarchist League president Phillip Benwall said Australians, especially the young, would continue to support the flag.

“It’s become a symbol of nationalism and patriotism among the younger generations and I don’t think they would tolerate any change,” he said.

“The Union Jack [on the flag] symbolises the identity, the traditions and the heritage of modern Australia. We’ve moved on, we’re now totally independent from the United Kingdom, but it’s still our heritage. You can’t get away from that.”

National Flag Association president Bert Lane said the flag had served Australia well in war and peace and Australians “recognise it for what it is: the flag of freedom”.

And he had no problems about transtasman confusion.

“Four little red stars on the New Zealand flag, six great big, white, bright stars on the Australian. People who can’t see the difference would have to be bloody blind or drunk.”

Actually, Alf’s eyesight is starting to pack up and now and again – ahem – he is apt to over-imbibe. But even when nicely pickled and has left his glasses at home he can pick an Aussie flag from a Kiwi one.

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