From Prime Minister John Howard to the ordinary Australian on the street, the message to the Big Day Out organisers was clear yesterday—hands off our flag.
As readers of The Daily Telegraph stridently opposed the attack on our national symbol, Big Day Out organisers backtracked on plans to ban the flag from its Sydney event—but still urged revellers to leave it at home.
“In recent times, there has been an increased incidence of flags brandished inconsiderately and this has led to tension,” organisers said in a statement.
“Our only goal in discouraging this activity at the Big Day Out is to ensure that our patrons are not subjected to, or inconvenienced by, this behaviour.”
A Daily Telegraph online poll has been bombarded with support for the flag as a symbol of freedom, not shame.
Of the 2750 people who voted, 81 per cent said the flag was a symbol of unity.
Big Day Out promoter Ken West caused a storm when he said the flag had been used as “gang colours” by a thuggish minority at last year’s event, just weeks after the Cronulla riots.
Mr Howard led the backlash yesterday, urging organisers to cancel Thursday’s Sydney Showground event rather than censor the flag.
“The proposition that the display of the Australian flag should ever be banned anywhere in Australia is offensive and it will be to millions of Australians,” he said.
Labor leader Kevin Rudd agreed, adding: “This is political correctness gone mad.”
Premier Morris Iemma said: “People will ignore this ban. You can’t stop people from showing pride in their country in this way.
“Kids will have the tattoo on their nose, they’ll have the T-shirts and they’ll fly the flag.”
While the Big Day Out organisers denied banning patriotism, they renewed their request for revellers to leave flags at home yesterday.
“With all this in mind and the aim to create a happy, peaceful musical event, organisers would like to request that fans please leave large flags at home,” a statement said.