News Politics Government votes down NAIDOC Week call to fly Indigenous flags in Senate

Government votes down NAIDOC Week call to fly Indigenous flags in Senate

The Senate motion was voted down 29-28. Photo: Getty
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Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags will not be flown inside the Senate because the federal government believes it is only “appropriate” to fly the National flag.

Labor and Greens senators have called the government’s position “shameful” after it and some crossbench senators voted down a proposal to raise the indigenous symbols on Tuesday.

Labor senators Malarndirri McCarthy and Pat Dodson had been joined by Greens senator Lidia Thorpe in raising the motion, in a move coinciding with NAIDOC Week.

The three Indigenous senators called for the Senate to back their idea to have “the Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag be displayed alongside the Australian flag in the Senate chamber”.

Senator Lidia Thorpe was one of those supporting the motion. Photo: AAP

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are both official flags of Australia.

Liberal senator Anne Ruston said the government did not support flying the two flags in the Senate.

“There are many places and circumstances to appropriately display the flags of our nation, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags,” Senator Ruston said in response to the motion.

“The government believes that the Australian national flag, which represents all Australians, is the only appropriate flag to be flown in the Senate chamber.”

Senator McCarthy sought leave to address the Senate.

The request was initially denied by the government before fellow Labor senator Murray Watt asked for that decision to be reconsidered.

“This is NAIDOC Week. To deny a First Nations senator leave to speak for one minute, on this motion, is I think something this government will regret,” he said.

The Aboriginal and Australian flags are displayed outside Parliament House. Photo: AAP

Senator Ruston then did allow Senator McCarthy leave to speak.

Senate president Scott Ryan pointed out it was usual parliamentary procedure for senators moving a motion, such as Senator McCarthy in this case, not to be granted leave to speak.

Senator McCarthy said she would “appeal” to the Senate to pass the motion, and noted that the Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were all displayed in front of Parliament House.

“This is a time we can show the best of the Senate,” she said.

Senator Thorpe said the Aboriginal flag “represents the oldest continuing living culture in the world”.

“The Aboriginal flag is what we identify with, what we connect with, just as you connect with the colonial flag that you love,” she said.

The vote was brought on and the motion was defeated 29-28.

Senator McCarthy later said the vote was “shameful”.

She pointed out the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags had been recognised as national flags of Australia since 1995.

Senator Thorpe tweeted that “colonial oppression reared its ugly violent head”.

“Happy Naidoc week,” she tweeted, alongside an eye-rolling emoji.

In a later speech to the chamber, Senator Thorpe said “the Australian flag does not represent all of us.”

“It’s shameful that the Liberals and Nationals voted against the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags being raised in this place,” she said.

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