Ben Fordham: The Aboriginal flag is now free to use for all Aussies. The federal government has bought the copyright from the Indigenous artist, Harold Thomas. Mr Thomas has received we believe, about $20 million out of the bill. It means the flag is no longer restricted in its use, so it can be used by charities, sporting organisations and even on clothing. Andrew Bragg is a Liberal Senator who's been working on this deal for some time. He's on the line. Senator, good morning to you.
Senator Bragg: G'day Ben.
Ben Fordham: Good news, huh?
Senator Bragg: It's a great win. It's a great win for everyone because it means that all the people of Australia can use the flag, including all the Aboriginal charities and the like that weren't able to use it in the past.
Ben Fordham: We had this ridiculous situation where charities were wanting to use it or sporting organisations were wanting to use it for Indigenous rounds, and they were told, no, you're not allowed to someone else owns it.
Senator Bragg: Yeah. So they had to pay royalties to use the flag on their clothing. And it was an outrage because people in community felt, well, this is a flag that belongs to the whole community and we've got to pay some guy to use it. Now, the problem, of course, was that Canberra had bungled it in the first place back in the 90s. And so it has taken now some 25 years to try and fix it.
Ben Fordham: Do we see a similar thing once upon a time with the boxing Kangaroo?
Senator Bragg: Yeah. So the Olympic committee and the government bought the boxing Kangaroo flag, which has been held by private interests, I think, before the Sydney Olympics. And this effectively now is doing what we've done then, making it freely available for anyone to use.
Ben Fordham: And we had a scenario where people owning a clothing brand were in control of this because the creator, Mr Thomas, had sold the rights to them and therefore people had to negotiate with these white business people based in Victoria, I think before they could use the Aboriginal flag, even Aboriginal charities and organisations had to deal with them before they got the green line.
Senator Bragg: Look, it was very messy and very murky, but it wasn't Harold's fault. I mean, Harold has created this amazing flag, which is one of the greatest symbols of Australia, and then the government put it into the Flags Act without his permission or without his consent back in 1995. He then had to go to court to secure his copyright like any Australian. And then he decided to sub licence the branding to different organisations and then it went bad from there. But it wasn't Harold fault. I mean, he's done a great thing for the nation by agreeing with Ken Wyatt, the Minister, that this flag can now be free for everyone.
Ben Fordham: Who did the deal, because this has been bubbling away for years?
Senator Bragg: Well it was Ken. Ken is the first person to be an Indigenous person in that job, and he negotiated this with Harold Thomas, the person who created the flag back in Adelaide in 1971. So it's really a historic day today because everyone can now use the flag in perpetuity for nothing.
Ben Fordham: We know the Australia Day debate comes up every year and you're proposing a new public holiday held the day after Australia day.
Senator Bragg: Well, I don't think that they should change. I don't think the nation should tell lies about their past and I think the 26 January is a significant day but I do think we should be more generous and much more reflective about the full history of this continent and I think that a second day on the 27th would allow us to look at the full picture of our past.
Ben Fordham: Well I don't think too many Aussies would argue about having an extra public holiday any time of the year, but I think around this time of the year there's always going to be debate because, as we know, it's an annual event. So thank you so much for joining us and well done. I know you worked long and hard behind the scenes on the issue involving freeing the Aboriginal flag.
Senator Bragg: Thanks, Ben. I appreciate the support.
Ben Fordham: Good on you. Andrew Bragg, the Liberal Senator who's been working on this and well done to Ken Wyatt, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs. You're listening to Ben Fordham on 2GB.
Charlotte Mortlock 0401 392 624