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Julie Bishop tells BBC that Australia wants to keep Union Jack on its flag

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (pictured in Manilla last month) has denied there is any wish to change the Australian flag.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (pictured in Manilla last month) has denied there is any wish to change the Australian flag. Photo: Romeo Ranoco

The Abbott government will not be following the example of New Zealand's conservative Prime Minister John Key, who wants to remove the Union Jack from his country's flag.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told BBC radio she thought there was “no great demand” to change Australia's flag and her government would not consider doing so.

“I am about to meet with Foreign Secretary William Hague and Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, I'm not going to start talking about removing the Union Jack from the Australian flag,” said Ms Bishop, who is visiting London and meeting with UK government leaders.

The flags of New Zealand (left) and Australia.

The flags of New Zealand (left) and Australia. Photo: AP

“That invites the assumption you rather like the idea you're just scared of telling them,” the interviewer suggested.

“Well I had a very enjoyable meeting with Her Majesty the Queen last evening and I didn't raise the matter of the flag there either,” Ms Bishop said.

“Believe it or not it's not an issue that actually draws much attention in Australia.

“I believe we will stick with the flag, there's no great demand to change it and many Australians have fought and died under that flag, sadly.

“We have competed in Olympic Games under that flag and there's a sense of pride in it. It also contains the Southern Cross, so that's a very Australian part of the flag.”

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr Key, has promised that if his government is re-elected in September he will allow the public to decide in a referendum whether it wants to change the national flag.

Mr Key would prefer New Zealand replace the Union Jack with a silver fern on a black backdrop.

Labor appears to agree with Ms Bishop, showing little interest in engaging in a debate about changing Australia's flag.

Asked his views on Wednesday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told Perth radio station 6PR he was "not keen" to change Australia's flag.

"I think our flag reflects our history," he said.

"The republic's a different issue, but ... I think that's one which the people of Australia sort of have to show a level of interest in."

Mr Shorten said Australia would remain a monarchy unless there was bipartisan support for the republican movement.

"But on our flag I would keep it as it is."

With Australia expected to have Liberal governments in every state and territory bar the ACT after the Tasmanian and South Australian elections this weekend, it appears unlikely that a flag debate will be driven any time soon by state leaders.

South Australian Liberal leader Steven Marshall, who is expected to end 12 years of Labor government on Saturday, told ABC radio he did not believe Australia needed a new flag.

“I think John Key is entitled to his position regarding the New Zealand flag but I don't think there's any push currently to change the Australian flag,” Mr Marshall said on Wednesday. “And certainly I wouldn't be supporting it.”

“The Union Jack in the corner reflects our history," Mr Marshall added.

"I think it's a flag that's held with great affection for people right across the country and I don't think there's any legitimate, widespread, populist support for any change to the flag.”

Tasmanian Liberal leader Will Hodgman appeared no more willing than Mr Marshall to entertain suggestions of changing Australia's flag.

“It's not part of our plan to change our flag but of course we're always open to good sensible debates about the state's future,” Mr Hodgman told ABC radio on Wednesday.

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104 comments

  • I am curious - what if Scotland does vote for independence and the Union flag of GB is changed to take away the Cross of St Andrew, I think that's the right part of the union flag that belongs to the UK. Will we keep our flag as it is for historical reasons, or will we change the top corner to reflect what may happen in England and Wales and the north of Ireland?

    Commenter
    JeremyHogarth
    Location
    Langwarrin
    Date and time
    March 12, 2014, 12:07PM
    • Lola you seem to have forgotten Australian soldiers wear the flag on there shoulder !!

      Commenter
      BigTedd
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      March 12, 2014, 2:16PM
  • They can change the flag.

    Over my dead body.

    Commenter
    Le Merchant
    Date and time
    March 12, 2014, 12:12PM
    • It's NOT a flag. It's a British blue ensign. We aren't grown up enough to have an actual flag.

      Commenter
      Bully
      Date and time
      March 12, 2014, 12:51PM
    • I don't see Chinese symbols anywhere on the flag...why? It is China that keeps this wonderful country going...

      Commenter
      China Rules
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 12, 2014, 12:57PM
    • Tend to agree, whether or not it has links to our sorded history of being part of the Commonwealth, it is still our flag, & is the flag that I will always salute.

      @ China Rules - it probably has 'Made in China' written on it somewhere :-/

      @ Bully - we have had thousands of our armed services fight & die under this flag, so regardless of your opinion, it is OUR flag! Don't dishonour those who have given their lives whilst under it's shadow. It's not about being grown up, it's about respect.

      Commenter
      Indeed
      Date and time
      March 12, 2014, 1:28PM
    • Yes i think we should move the union jack right in the far right hand corner right where it says "Made in China"

      Then move the "Made in China" where the union Jack used to be.

      There, that reflects the past and the future

      Commenter
      Andy
      Date and time
      March 12, 2014, 1:43PM
    • @Indeed...I agree with you with a small correction...I'm not quite sure how many people risked their lives lately for "the flag"...more like...great mortgage busters (payments), now that's worth any risk, even o/seas deployments...great pay indeed.

      Commenter
      Le Flag
      Location
      Mosman
      Date and time
      March 12, 2014, 1:46PM
    • Your body, alive or dead, is entirely irrelevant. As is Julie Bishop's claim to speak for all Australians.

      The kiwis again will beat us to the punch on this as they do with pretty much everything meaningful and worthwhile.

      Commenter
      jofek
      Date and time
      March 12, 2014, 2:03PM
    • I don't want a foreign ruler or a foreign flag and I have felt that way since I was 10 years old and had a brain. I am now in my 60s. In modern warfare, soldiers don't fight under their flag - it would give away their position! That happened in about the 18/19th century and before when armies lined up against each other with a field between them and charged. In WW1, any flag shown was probably the red ensign or the Union Jack. It was all very vague. Anyway, it's a poor argument and means nothing, to say that our soldiers died under it and therefore it can't be changed. You can easily just say, "Well, that flag was used in those days, before we had this flag." - as many modern nations do today. It is not a distinctive flag and does not represent Australia, hopefully one day an independent nation which rules itself. May that day come soon, when we finally grow up.

      Commenter
      lola
      Date and time
      March 12, 2014, 2:12PM

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