The Echidna: Flap over the flag signals it's time to grow up

This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au

As far as gestures go, it was bound to be incendiary. Greens leader Adam Bandt's refusal to stand in front of the Australian flag during his Sydney press conference on Monday certainly got talkback radio barking. It also triggered Government Services Minister Bill Shorten, who described the decision to remove the Australian flag from behind the podium, but leave the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in place, as a divisive act.

Bandt said he did it because "for many Australians, this flag represents dispossession and the lingering pains of colonisation". He also used the gesture to promote his republican viewpoint and desire to have a new flag that represents all Australians. What he didn't say was that for many Australians who came from troubled parts of the world to build new lives here, the flag represents sanctuary, opportunity and hope. You see those sentiments in the beaming faces at citizenship ceremonies around the country every year.

The very first press conference held by Anthony Albanese before he jetted off to Tokyo in his first week as PM featured the three flags and was seen as a powerful message of inclusion. Bandt's removal of the Australian flag smacked of student politics, a vaguely desperate look-at-me stunt from a party that ought to be taken seriously, given its electoral success in May.

And perhaps that is the point. If nothing else, the flap over the flag has got the Greens into the headlines, and differentiated them from the Teals, whose stunning wins in the election attracted the lion's share of media attention. But one wonders at what cost. Most of us are tired of the culture wars and yet here are the Greens reigniting them by feeding the trolls and inflaming the shock jocks, just when we're becoming accustomed to the new civility and commonsense in politics.

The Greens have every right to champion a republic. They have every right to call for a new flag. They have every right to advocate for First Nations people. But very little is gained by provocative gestures that only serve to distract and divide.

Perhaps it's time to act like the grown-up party the electors expect.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Is it time we had a new flag? Did Adam Bandt help the cause of the republic by removing the Australian flag from his press conference? Email us: echidna@theechidna.com.au

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too.


- Australia's national energy market will return to normal in a staged process after the market operator said it had growing confidence there was enough ongoing capacity for households and businesses. The Australian Energy Market Operator began lifting its suspension from 4am today, citing a "clear improvement" in conditions since it halted the market a week ago.

- Concerns have been raised over laws that allow for convicted terrorists to be detained after they have served their sentence if they are deemed to be at risk of reoffending. The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor is examining, through a public hearing in Canberra, whether the power is proportionate to the national security threat, meets Australia's human rights obligations and provides adequate procedural fairness and safeguards.

- Australia's energy supply will be assured by a faster transition to renewables but the "safety net" capacity mechanism will not affect the emissions reduction target, Energy and Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said. The government will also push ahead on legislating its 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 target despite the opposition declaring it will not support it.

THEY SAID IT: "If you want a symbolic gesture, don't burn the flag; wash it." - Norman Thomas

YOU SAID IT: "Re interest rates: every family on $200,000 or less, this will have an impact on their budget and the increase of interest rates WILL increase inflation. The Reserve Bank needs to know casual work is NOT full employment. Same as so called elective surgery is not always elective but necessary. When will the experts get it right?" - Gary

"What a refreshing change there seems to have been since the election - state premiers talking to each other, joint plans, congenial meetings and a very calming and confident Philip Lowe doing his best to explain how he thinks the coming months will pan out. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come and there will be less shouting and backbiting when parliament resumes." - Stephanie

"The Reserve Bank has only ever had one tool in its toolbox, and that's interest/cash rates. It has a long-and-not-so-proud history of acting after the horse has bolted, and this time it's no different. A steady rise in interest rates now is only playing catch-up for what it should have done earlier. We are fortunate in not having a mortgage, but we do have two savings accounts with our bank. It has passed on the 0.25 percentage point increase to one account, and the 0.50 point increase to the other, but not the full 0.75 point rise to either. No doubt it will hold back part of any further increases as well in order to increase its profits. Banks really are bastards." - Bob

"Yes, the Gov, that Phil Lowe, he's one cool cucumber. Makes one think that maybe fiscal policy could be determined 'independently' too - no pork barreling, no coin for party mates, responsible spending where it will help the people and develops the economy. Maybe there's something to this Teal movement after all. Looks like the Lab-Lib-Nat hold on running our great nation could be finally over!" - Daniel

"The governor said borrowers had squirrelled away considerable savings during the pandemic which would act as a buffer to ease the pain as mortgage payments increased. Basically he's saying that those who own a home and are doing well will continue to do well and those struggling will suffer more. Many people have used up all their savings to survive the pandemic. Many people will never be able to afford to become borrowers. No suggestion that wages need to increase. No suggestion that welfare support should increase. He's preferencing home owners and landlords over renters as usual." - David

This story Flap over the flag signals it's time to grow up first appeared on The Canberra Times.