In advance of Australia Day celebrations, there are calls to burn the national flag, which could have been a criminal offense in Victoria under a bill introduced nearly a year ago by Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party Member for the Northern Victoria Region Daniel Young.
“It is one thing to say the burning of the Australian flag by an individual is a form of freedom of political expression, but to collectively call it a ‘rag’ and incite others to ‘steal and burn’ it goes to the intent of my private member’s bill to protect it from vile desecration,” Mr Young said.
He tabled the Upholding Australian Values (Protecting Our Flags) Bill 2015 in March last year, to make it a specific offence to burn, intentionally damage, deface or otherwise desecrate the Australian Flag. The bill also proposed to protect the Victorian Flag, Aboriginal Flag and Australian Red Ensign. With Labor and Greens party members indicating they would defeat the bill, it did not proceed to a vote.
In recent weeks, a group calling themselves the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance – WAR, have stated on social media that members will hold “7 days of Resistance/Deconlonization (sic) In the lead up to Invasion Day 2017” and encourage people to disrupt Australia Day celebrations, including “steal and burn aus rags”. WAR’s call to arms has been further supported by Left Renewal, a far-left faction of the NSW Greens.
“The wording of the social media posts have all the hallmarks of inciting hostile activities and should be denounced,” Mr Young said. “Yet, we hear nothing from State Labor Government leaders or the Federal Greens Leader Richard Di Natale, who reportedly refused to condemn the rallying cries when specifically asked about them.”
In March, Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings argued that the Government would not support Mr Young’s bill because, in part, it could limit the inherent freedom of political expression. But, Minister Jennings added, the Government may need to consider whether actions that many would consider desecrating the flag “aggravates the community as distinct from harmonising it”.
“If the Government reflects on what is being advocated by WAR and Left Renewal, it cannot deny these are the very issues Minister Jennings said could lead to support for legislation. Advocating for the malicious desecration the Australian flag and what it symbolises does little to harmonise,” Mr Young said.