The good news first: New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet isn’t going to throw $25 million at a flag pole on the Harbour Bridge.
The bad news: He has decided to cancel the NSW flag without asking the citizens of NSW what they think about this self-created mess.
The worse news: The $25 million isn’t going back to desperate taxpayers or to flood-affected victims, it’s being redirected into ‘Close the Gap’ initiatives which have already received significant funding. Given that the price tag was the primary cause of public outrage, failing to save that money means that Perrottet has completely missed the point.
Previously, the Australian flag and the NSW flag flew atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge because they were two flags that included (if we’re going to speak ‘Woke’) every citizen of the state.
Those days are finished in what Perrottet called ‘a practical and pragmatic solution which makes sense’.
Flying the Aboriginal flag is an idea that has been sold to the people of New South Wales as a way to ensure reconciliation. Considering this gesture still ended up costing $25 million, what assurances and legal guarantees did Perrottet obtain toward this outcome?
Was there a protection agreement signed for the Australian flag to ensure activist groups would no longer seek to remove or alter the national flag? Did they promise to stop marching against Australia Day as a mark of respect? Was there a discussion about discontinuing unacceptable rhetoric that promotes the idea that some Australians have less connection or rights to this land based upon skin colour? Did government councils similarly promise to uphold Australia Day events? Will the Aboriginal flag fly at half-mast without complaint when required?
No. Like all concessions that have been made – including changes to the national anthem – there was no corresponding agreement. Without reciprocal promises, it is unlikely this gesture will bring a single improvement to the cause of ‘reconciliation’.
The Australian flag remains a loved and widely embraced symbol of national unity. The flag is a piece of iconography that those who love Australia rally around on our national days of celebration, particularly as so many of us have heritage fractured across the world. The flag, at least, is something that belongs to all of us.
While it was the NSW flag on the chopping block this time, recent behaviour from political leaders on the Left have shown that they intend to keep up their attacks on the Australian flag.
If Perrottet is going to embrace the flag wars, despite previously voicing his objection to them, he must make some effort to ensure that the people of New South Wales are given certainty that activists will stop attacking national symbols. Agreeing to fly the Aboriginal flag on the Harbour Bridge should mean an end to defacing statues of Captain Cook, for instance.
As for the NSW flag, it will eventually mount a flag pole in the Macquarie street Sydney CBD after its $119 million redevelopment.
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