From Adelaide Now
FOUR in 10 Australians think the flag needs to be reclaimed as a symbol of unity.
And only a third of people would vote yes if another referendum to establish a republic were held today.
A Galaxy Poll of more than 1000 people, conducted exclusively for News Limited in the run up to Australia Day, reveals how some feel the flag has slipped as an icon of togetherness.
Forty per cent said there was “a need to reclaim the Australian flag as a symbol of unity”, while 33 per cent said there was no need. The remainder were uncommitted.
Sydney University researcher Ben Moffitt, who wrote a thesis on the Cronulla race riots, said the use of the flag during that violence had left an ugly mark.
The wearing of the flag as a cape there, and at other events like music festivals, had turned it into a weapon, he said.
“It was not a symbol of unity, it was a symbol of otherness… as if to say this is what is really Australian, you are not,” Mr Moffitt said.
The riots was a “perfect storm” of symbolism with lasting connotations, he said.
“You had life savers, the beach, the Australian flag, the southern cross, the Eureka tattoo,” Mr Moffitt said.
“Chuck in some beers, the hot sun. It’s all those Australian symbols turned into a nasty cocktail.”
People who had southern cross tattoos prior to the riots now looked like “nationalist boofheads” because of the changed symbolism, he said.
University of Technology Sydney associate professor Katrina Schlunke said the flag had become a confused symbol, both filled with meaning and deprived of it.
“It can be used as a kind of rallying symbol for a racist action, so it’s too heavily imbued with meaning,” she said.
“And on the other hand, it’s as if it’s being emptied out of meaning by its popular uptake and casual use on cars and everyone flying one in their back yard and here and there.”
Meanwhile, the poll revealed even fewer people would vote for a republic if the 1999 referendum question were put to them now, with 33 per cent answering yes, compared with 45 per cent who answered yes 13 years ago.
Monarchist David Flint said support for a republic had been down in polls for years, even before the latest royal marriage and the Queen’s diamond jubilee.
He said people were “peeved” with politicians, but not with the Queen.
But republican David Morris said the original question had been so flawed, the result was unsurprising. Research last year by UMR showed 48 per cent supported Australia becoming a republic, he said.
Mr Morris said the question had been off the political agenda for too long and a national conversation needed to happen on the best way to frame a republic.