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Use and abuse of the flag

ELLEN FANNING: Prime Minister, part of what was chilling yesterday was seeing a lot of people in between the violence doing things that you'd see at the cricket, singing "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi", wrapping themselves in the Australian flag. What do you say to people who use the Australian flag in that way?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I would never condemn people for being proud of the Australian flag. I don't care – I would never condemn people for being proud....

- interview with John Howard the day after the race riot at North Cronulla, Channel 9, 12.12.05

The organisers of Sydney's Big Day Out put their foot in it when they asked patrons not to take the Australian flag along with them to Thursday's gig at the Sydney Showground. Their sentiments were sincere but naive, and their damage control press release issued yesterday could have done without the final paragraph, taking a pot-shot at the people taking cheap pot-shots at them.

They do, however, raise a few pertinent points:

  1. The Australian flag was never banned from the BDO
  2. the organisers discouraged the flag's use for antisocial purposes
  3. the Sydney concert is being staged this year, not on Australia Day as in the past, but on January 25.

Just go back to point 2 there, and then read that quote from John Howard again. Has he ever condemned the misuse of the Australian flag at North Cronulla Beach that Sunday in 2005? Nope.

And it hasn't stopped that uberpatriot comic book, the Daily Telegraph, from staying on the bandwagon and quite deliberately inciting tension within the concert-going public.

It's not an Australia Day concert. Why take the Aussie (or any other) flag anyway?

That hapless fool, Member for Lakemba Premier Iemma, was reported in the Herald this morning as "seeking legal advice on whether the State Government [which owns the Sydney Showground] could force the organisers to withdraw any ban."

Some worthwhile comments sort-of in support of the BDO approach from Senator Andrew Bartlett (AD, Qld), Clem Bastow at, and Matthew Weaver at Guardian Unlimited.

Yes, Howard's intolerant Australia has become a laughingstock in the world media again.

(Oh, publicity stunt by the concert organisers? I hardly think so, since the Sydney BDO sold out within hours on October 13...)