Flag poll shows support for status quo
Most young Australians say there should be no change to the Australian flag - even if that means retaining the Union Jack as a prominent part of its design.
The poll, in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald, revealed only 27 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 felt the flag should be redesigned, and showed a majority of all Australians - 66 per cent - wanted no change.
The results follow last week's federal government proposal that any change to the flag be ratified by a national plebiscite.
The flag debate is highly charged and will become even more so in the run-up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Republicans argue that Australia cannot continue to be represented by a flag that features the British Union Jack. Australian conservatives who wish to retain a link with Britain insist the Union Jack be kept.
The poll's results are a setback to republicans, who have been successfully exploiting the issue of the 2000 Olympics to argue the country sever its ties with the British monarchy by then.
Paradoxically, many republicans believe that consensus on a republic is likelier under Prime Minister John Howard's conservative coalition Government than it was under the Labor government of predecessor Paul Keating, who personally espoused the notion of an Australian republic. Political conservatives, who would not support a republic while Mr Keating championed it, are now far more open to the possibility.
But the flag is set to remain a sticking point, with part of the problem for republicans being the lack of acceptable alternatives.
The most frequently advocated alternative is the flag of the Southern Cross, also known as the Eureka Flag after the 1854 Eureka uprising at which it was first hoisted. But its association with radical, anti-British and left-wing causes renders it unpalatable to many conservative and mainstream Australians.