THOSE calling for a new Australian flag say there is no clear winner out of kangaroos or stars for an alternative to the Union Jack.
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott yesterday came to the defence of the Australian flag after TV celebrity Ray Martin reignited the debate when he labelled the current flag as "colonial".
Martin's call was supported yesterday by sporting legend Ron Barassi and Greens leader Senator Bob Brown who said "it is high time we replaced the Union Jack with a dinkum Australian symbol on our flag".
Speaking in Brisbane yesterday, Mr Abbott said the flag had never been more popular.
"Every second car seems to be decorated with the Australian flag in the run-up to Australia Day," Mr Abbott said.
"I think people like our flag; I think they're proud of our flag. I think our flag of stars and crosses, it represents our history and our hopes and I think people want to keep it."
Ms Gillard said on Sky television that she believed the flag should stay the way it was.
"It's part of our history; I believe it should be part of our future," she said.
"I believe Australians identify with it. It's certainly been our flag as we've gone into war; it's our flag as we've gone into international sporting events. It's now displayed proudly around the nation and we should keep it the same."
Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce described Martin as a good bloke who had got things wrong, saying he had an Australian flag flying outside his house and on his favourite pair of thongs and he did not want to change either of them.
A News Ltd poll at the weekend found 45 per cent of Australians said the Union Jack should not be removed from the flag, while only 27 per cent said it should.
Harold Scruby, executive director of the AusFlag group set up in 1981 to lobby for a new flag, said yesterday that the alternative to the current design was the "the $64,000 question".
Ausflag ran design competitions in the 1990s, including a 1998 public competition in which the two most popular designs were a flag where the Union Jack was replaced by a seven-pointed gold star and a design featuring a yellow kangaroo leaping in front of a red background with a seven-pointed white star in the upper left corner. Mr Scruby said there needed to be bipartisan support in coming up with a new design.
[link to samples of alternative designs, arising from earlier Ausflag project]
"I think it needs a lot more research to find out what's in the hearts and minds of the Australian people," he said.
Mr Scruby said in a similar way that supporters of the republic could not agree on a model, those calling for a new flag had no clear choice in mind.
"I think within those two designs is the essential problem that we confront. We're stuck between a kangaroo and a Southern Cross."
Ray Martin is an AusFlag director.
"We think the political tide has turned," Mr Scruby said.
"I think Australians are desperate for their own symbol," he said
Some distinctive national flags ...
Note that distinctive flags do not rely on ensigns or tricolors.
However - an opposing view (to any change) defends our continued use of a colonial ensign :