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Hiding behind the flag

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by Major General (ret'd) Michael Keating

Major General Michael Keating, chair of the Australian Republican Movement, says that since 1999 opponents of an Australian republic have been hiding behind the Australian flag.


Since 1999 and before the opponents of an Australian republic have been hiding behind the Australian flag. They never miss an opportunity to assert that when we become a republic we will automatically change the Australian flag. Like many of the myths put forward as arguments by monarchists and untruthfully repeated to this day, the losing the flag myth is just that — a myth. The truth is that we can have whatever flag we chose — either as a constitutional monarchy or as a republic.

The flag and the republic are separate issues. Take the examples of Canada and Fiji — both fellow members of the Commonwealth. Canada changed her flag in 1965, but has not become a republic. Fiji became a republic in 1987 but did not change her flag. They are separate issues. A change in one does not necessitate a change in the other.

Some Australians, including some republican Australians, would like to change our flag; there are, indeed, organisations in Australia whose sole purpose is to propose a change. The Australian Republican Movement is not one of those organisations. The Australian Republican Movement advocates that Australia severs ties with the British monarchy and becomes a republic where the Australian people are sovereign. There is no mention of changing the flag — the flag is a separate issue.

Canada adopted the Maple Leaf as their national flag, but is still a constitutional monarchy. The flag and the republic are separate issues.

Central to the flag myth are pious statements about not rejecting something held so sacred by generations of diggers from Gallipoli to this day. The truth is that generations of Australians did not die for the Australian flag or even under it. The current flag was not the flag during World War 1 or World War 2. Use of the imagery of the current flag is relatively recent and more aligned with sporting triumphs and advertisements than indelibly inked into the psyche of all Australians. The Union Lack in the top left corner symbolises the union of the countries of Great Britain. It is not inconceivable that it will change in the future.

Our flag is an important symbol. It is not universally accepted by all Australians, but it is our flag. It is possible to change it should the Australian people wish to do so. It is not inextricably linked to our constitutional status. We can be a republic with the current flag. We could change the flag and remain a constitutional monarchy.

The Australian Republican Movement is not advocating a change to the flag. It is a separate issue. The facts are clear.  
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