Like your correspondent, D A Ryan, I would like to offer a few comments on our flag (IPA Review, Vol. 45. No. 2).
It seems to me that everything is around the wrong way in Ryan's correspondence. The fundamental nature of our political arrangements (republican vs monarchy) is far, far more than mere silent symbolism. How we, the citizens, control our uppity servant, our government, is (or should be) of the most basic interest to us all. There are all too many examples in this world, both now and in the past, where the controller and controlled have swapped places to the detriment of those who really matter: the people.
By contrast the flag is but a symbol -- a most powerful symbol to be sure. Should it be changed it will be a sad, probably infuriating, day for many (including me) but that alone is unlikely to lead to either riot or mass conscription to the salt mines.
So the strongest opposition to a change in the flag should be, contrary to Ryan's view, for 'sentimental rather than logical reasons'. As a symbol the flag is strengthened by tradition and longevity. To change it in response to the whim of the moment means the loss of the myriad attachments that so many people presently have to it, in the hope that a new design will in due course attract new attachments. We would thereby drop all its present emotional value back to a baseline of zero and start again from scratch. What a waste!
I do not care if the flags flying over our warrior forefathers' heads were the red versions of our present flag. I do not care that it is constructed from three separate items, of which two do not relate to Australia (only the Federation star is ours). I do care that the flag, as a whole, as it stands, has been the flag of Australia, my Australia, from my earliest, dimmest recollection.
Our flag is an indivisible symbol not of its components, but of Australia. To replace it with something else simply because that something else might bear more apt figures would do nothing but destroy it as a symbol. The best we could hope for is that the new flag would recover -- in perhaps half a century -- some of the emotional significance of the old.
© 1992 - Stephen Dawson