Banning flag burning would be doubly unproductive, CLA says in response to an RSL call for a new law to that effect. Australian Diggers fought to ensure Australians enjoyed freedom of expression, which a ban would do away with. As well, forbidding flag burning could well be a strategic error: police might like to identify who is so hostile to Australia they are prepared to burn the flag.
Banning the burning of the Australian flag would be both anti‐civil liberties and a possible security risk, Civil Liberties Australia said today.
WA RSL president Bill Gaynor has called on the State Premier to revive a 2002 plan to make flag burning illegal.
“While we understand the offence it causes – my father fought in World War Two and I see the desecration of the flag as an insult to him and to other service personnel – banning the activity is the very antithesis of the values for which they fought,” said CLA’s WA spokesperson Rex Widerstrom.
“We all have a right to express ourselves, provided we don’t hurt other people or interfere with their rights. That principle is what makes Australia a great country.
“Banning a personal freedom – even if it is to allow someone to make an idiot of him or herself – should be a last resort if we want to keep Australia the freedom‐loving nation for which the Diggers fought.”
Mr Widerstrom also said banning something like flag burning was also a stupid move strategically. “While some of those involved in these sorts of incidents are just caught up in the moment and act rashly, there may well be an element amongst them for whom it does serve to convey a real hostility to this country.
“I’d imagine those are precisely the sort of people the police and ASIO would like to know about and keep an eye on,” Mr Widerstrom said.
Civil Liberties Australia welcomed WA Premier Colin Barnett’s refusal to reintroduce his legislation which would have banned the activity, but pointed out that politicians needed to go a step further and protects rights like freedom of speech in law.
CLA believes Australia should have a Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, like the European Convention on Human Rights, or the NZ Bill of Rights.
“That would ensure no politician could legislate to reduce Australians’ rights to express an opinion – especially opinions other people might find offensive, because it is those which need that greatest protection,” Mr Widerstrom said.