Row over Australian flag at Bondi Pavilion

Monday, January 2, 2006

New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma has prompted controversy following recent race-riots, when he urged the Waverley Council to reconsider its decision not to fly the Australian flag over The Bondi (Beach) Pavilion Community Cultural Centre.

"There is no problem with the flag and as for council banning the flag, it's absolute nonsense," responded Waverley deputy mayor George Newhouse. He said that the Premier, who described the council's decision as divisive and disgraceful, did not understand the facts.

"We already fly the flag at Bondi, we proudly fly the flag at Bondi and this decision has absolutely nothing to do with racism or Cronulla. It has everything to do with practical common sense," Mr Newhouse said.

"The Pavilion is a heritage-listed building and it will cost thousands of dollars to perform a heritage study and then erect the poles, which don't exist. We already have the flag, we love the flag, there is no problem with the flag and as for council banning the flag, it's absolute nonsense," said Mr Newhouse.

Riots took place in December at Cronulla, another Sydney beach, with many of the proponents and commentators blaming inter-ethnic tensions for the outbreak.

Premier Iemma last week presented a new flag to the Brighton-le-Sands RSL Club after its symbol was burnt during the December 11 riots.

Of the Waverly Council decision, Premier Iemma said, "Our flag is a symbol of national unity and the council decision is just ridiculous. They want to reconsider it immediately."

The Council first voted against installing the flag in March 2005 because of a lengthy and expensive permit process. It is the second time in a year the council has rejected the motion. Mayor of Waverley, Mora Main, says there are already number of Australian flags flying in the Bondi Beach area. She said their primary concern was cost - not just $150 for each flagpole, but more than $15,000 because of the need to do a heritage study and consult the community.

"It's an iconic heritage building. Anything that's done to the pavilion needs to go through a rigorous heritage process," Cr Main said.

Before imposing the ban, the Council recently rejected an offer from Federal MP Malcolm Turnbull to pay for an Australian and Aboriginal flag.

However, Mayor Mora Main says the Council would now have a rethink.

"I have called on the Premier and Mr Turnbull to meet with me to discuss the appropriateness of putting flags on the pavilion and also how it can be funded," she said. "It's great to hear this discussion about the flags and I look forward to hearing everyone's ideas when we consult with the community."