Should this offensive act be illegal? 806

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Over the weekend Brisbane hosted the G20 conference of international leaders. It was a maximum security operation that proved to be successful with only four arrests and 24 people banned from the security zone despite protests across the weekend. While these were peaceful protests, there was an incident that has called for public debate on a much larger and serious issue.

Should Australia make it illegal to burn or desecrate the Australian flag?

A group of around 50 people burned Australian flags whilst chanting messages on Roma Street, in inner city Brisbane. While the protest was otherwise peaceful, the fact that the flag was burnt has angered a lot of people and has given many Australians reason to question our currently laws around flag desecration.

Currently, Australia does not have any legislation criminalising flag burning or flag desecration. This is despite numerous attempts from different people across time to criminalise it. In 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992 Michael Cobb MP (Nat) introduced and reintroduced a private member’s bill to make it an offence to desecrate or dishonour the flag. This lapsed each time. Then others followed presenting bills in 1996, 2002 and 2003.

Right now, it is not a criminal offence in Australia to desecrate the flag. This seems almost crazy when we look at other nations, many of which had delegates present at the G20 see it as one of the most offensive criminal acts possible. Countries including Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.

If so many other nations all over the world have legislation protecting the flag, then why don’t we?

It is understandable that wherever there are people with a flag, there will be others who don’t appreciate or respect that flag for whatever reason. It is something that has happened for years and will continue to happen. But does that mean that we can stand by and let a nation’s icon be destroyed.

Not only is it uncomfortable and offensive to others who believe in the flag and support it, but also it sends an incredibly poor message to other nations when there is that level of turmoil in one country. Whether it be justified or not, it is something that is a highly disruptive behaviour.


So today, we want to know what you think. Should Australia make desecrating and burning the Australian flag illegal? Or should it remain without criminal penalties? Join the discussion in the comments below…

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  1. It is such a childish act to burn a flag. Making it illegal would only mean that we put a value on such a meaningless and irrelevant act. Let ignorant fools do whatever they want to do to the flag – it does not change what we as a country stand for.

  2. I would hate to see us go the way of the USA. It is a bit of cloth, plastic or whatever the symbol is printed on. It really does not matter and no matter how many folk display it or even burn it these acts do not alter what the flag may mean to others. Someone else burning a piece of cloth in protest will not in any way degrade the memory of anyone whose acts of courage were carried out under the the same banner. I like to think we still have the freedom that many died for and that that freedom includes the ability to burn a flag in protest.

    3 REPLY
    • If it was ‘just a bit if cloth’ they wouldn’t have bothered burning it. It was symbolic of what they feel about us as a nation.

    • I am sorry…. I cannot agree… it is far more than a piece of cloth we are talking about here… it is the symbol for me as an Australian for so much more than that… I have serving family and our flag means everything to them…. How can we honour them if we not not also honour what they hold dear…

      Also… it is not just the act that offends me as an Australian, but the attitude behind the act…. worrying times……

    • Yes. It is just a piece of cloth. A piece of cloth that our young men have followed into battle fields all over the world. A rallying point and something to be proud of. Stained with the blood of thousands of Australia’s finest young men and women who proudly support it. It should not be burnt, spat on or desecrated. It shows the mentality and lack of moral courage of our politicians that they allow this to happen, while still expecting our young men and women to rally behind it in time of war. Make it an offence.

  3. Those involved in burning the Australian flag are saying they do NOT want anything Australian – including welfare! Take away any welfare benefits from each of them permanently. This is an act of hatred, which is not part of the Australian way of life, and the perpetrators should be punished.

    23 REPLY
    • good idea Paul but our” weak kneed” government won’t do anything!!! these people need to show respect before they can ever get people to agree with their course.

    • Sadly you miss the point, do we really want a country that puts a flag ahead of people’s rights to remain out of poverty?

    • Sue Maywald they receive more payment than their white brothers the only poverty they face is self inflicted . Their age pension is way higher & people who complain & carry on like this mob did usually are smokers & drunks .

    • I also would like to state one of my best mates is an aborigine & he gets so disgusted when things like this happen .

    • totally agree Paul, take away all their benefits pronto

    • Welfare or any other benefit provided by the Australian taxpayer should be taken immediately!

    • Our fathers, grandfathers and those before them fought under the Australian flag to keep our country free….burning the flag that they fought under is an act of terrorism and a lack of respect for those that have fought for our country!

    • I am all for legislation, my family fought under that flag, but these people want a reaction and right around Australia, we are giving them a reaction. We should not give them what they want..cut off their oxygen and Politicians need to act before they burn it again

    • I put this on a par with desecrating a war memorial – and agree with the comment that if this is ‘just a piece of cloth’ then why bother to burn it, they did this to show their thoughts on Australia. Everyone is allowed their opinion, it’s when it’s extreme (as I think this was) when things go too far. A sad day when someone thinks burning the flag is ok.

    • What about the black fellas that fought in the wars on behalf of the white folk who stole their land, any recognition for that? It seems not, all you bigots here on this blog are concerned about is a piece of cloth with the Union Jack in it.

      1 REPLY
      • I don’t think the Aboriginal soldiers were forgotten ! It also amounts to them disrespecting their elders.

    • Thought you said hatred and punishment isn’t the Australian way of life and so you hate and punish this stupid act. People are allowed to protest and show they are angry and if you make it illegal then that is what they will all want to do is burn more flags. The flag is respected by us all and yet it represents the freedom of speech. It is wrong to burn the flag but to jail someone for making a political statement is wrong also. Putting a piece of material before the person who has the grievance is not Australian either and diggers didn’t die for the piece of material, they died for all Australians to have the freedom to speak. Yes it is wrong but no I don’t think jailing someone for protesting is appropriate nor is it Australian. They just need to be told to stop being such a bloody idiot. They also deserve to be listened to and what they are so upset about. Maybe more tolerance would go a long way to solving issues rather than forcing people to be what you are not.

    • Glenda “This flag is respected by us all”? In this day and age, I don’t think so. A big majority of people want their own identity, in regards to the Union Jack, and not some other countries identity. Which it
      Is. It’s great to remember our war dead under this flag, but life goes on as we don’t live in the past, we live for the future and what it be holds

    • Murray if it wasn’t for the “white fellas” the aboriginals wouldn’t be getting the unemployment or any pensions

    • So what are you saying Murray forget and forgive these grubs deserve a flogging can you imagine the out cry If I were to start burning the flags of the minority groups I’d be in court before I could blink

    • Carol I’d like to see your PROOF of higher incomes and more money because no one in my Aboriginal families receives MORE money??

    • Also many young aboriginal men volunteered, fought and died under our flag, so burning the flag is also a gross insult to those brave young men as well. Time to face the real world and get that chip on their shoulder removed.

    • Perhaps one of the chips was our PM insisted that Australia was a vacant land before the British got here Marie. Or perhaps being recognized in the constitution would help also.

    • There are more and better ways to protest than to burn our flag, they should use their brains!

  4. Burning our flag is not meaningless or irrelevant, sorry. It is our flag and as such should be treated with respect! Yes, they are ignorant fools but should be held to account for their actions. Our flag represents us as a nation and we were raised to respect it and be proud of it. I find their actions totally disrespectful and very anti Australian. Go live somewhere else if you don’t like it here, and take your politics with you!

    8 REPLY
    • the trouble is Sue they think we white Australians are trespassing & should go but if it wasn’t for our governments money they wouldn’t be able to get their grog , food, or matches to burn our flag!!!!!

    • Full blooded, traditional, bush living aboriginal people do not act like this. I have lived and worked with them. They dislike this crap as much as anyone else. The angry fools who do this are parasites with little real purpose to their wretched lives ; in the past, if they burnt my flag, I arranged for theirs to be ceremoniously burnt in front of them. The symbolism worked. When they burn our flag they disgrace themselves and their cause, which is……?. Because they could not live without us, without our welfare and our tolerance and traditional aboriginal people would not have them in their communities. It is a shame that the media give them the oxygen to run their hatred on our streets.

    • Umm, if it wasn’t for our grog etc, they wouldn’t be alcholics they would still be living their lives that they have lived it for centuries, we are the ones that interfered with their traditions.

    • Dean Cole – we have deleted your comments. All personal attacks will have the abuser banned for 24 hours at first and permanently afterwards. We are not tolerating either side of an argument becoming rude or offensive.

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