Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he has told Adam Bandt to “reconsider” his position after the leader of the left-leaning Greens refused to stand in front of the Australian flag at his press conference.
Prior to Bandt’s press conference in Sydney on Monday, a Greens staffer sidelined the Australian flag but left the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders flags in the front and centre.
Bandt later explained that for some Australians, the Australian flag “represents dispossession and the lingering pains of colonisation,” adding that he usually had it removed in his media conference.
“Through treaty with First Nations peoples and by moving into a republic, we can have a flag that represents all of us,” he said.
The move has garnered criticism from Indigenous figures and Bandt’s political opponents including Shadow Assistant Minister Phillip Thompson, who described the move as a “virtue signalling political stunt.”
— Isobel Roe (@isobelroe) June 20, 2022
Australian PM Albanese weighed in on the controversy on Tuesday, saying he was “quite surprised by the comments that were made” by Bandt.
“I just say to Mr Bandt that he needs to think about the responses that have been made and reconsider his position … to promote unity and work to promote reconciliation,” he told reporters in Hobart.
“I’m always very proud to stand in front of the Australian flag and I think anyone who is a member of the Australian Parliament should do so as well,” the prime minister said.
“Reconciliation is about bringing people together … It is undermined if people look for division rather than look for unity.”
Nationals Senator Matt Canavan told Sky News First Edition that if the Greens are ashamed of the Commonwealth, “they should not be using taxpayer-funded Commonwealth offices for their press conferences.”
Cheap Stunt Should Be Ignored
Former Labor senator Stephen Conroy said the move is one of the Greens leader’s tactics to grab attention.
“Here’s a bloke that in his heart believed he would be a minister after the election he truly did believe he would have his hands on the reigns of power and he is just deeply, deeply bitter about it,” he told Sky News Australia on Tuesday.
“Frankly we should just ignore him because he is going to keep having to do these cheap pathetic stunts to try and draw attention to himself.”
Meanwhile, when asked about his government’s approach to Indigenous issues, Albanese said he would advocate for “constitutional change” by forming an Indigenous body in Parliament.
“The truth is Australia didn’t begin in 1788. We should be proud of the fact that our continuous culture goes back at least 65,000 years,” he said.
This would require amendments to the Constitution, a move Indigenous leader Warren Mundine warns could risk “putting one race above other races.”
“Putting the Voice in our Constitution is dangerous because we want all citizens to be treated equally. When you’ve got it into the body of the Constitution, then it can become discriminatory and racist,” he told The Epoch Times on May 25.
“If you put something in the Constitution it’s very hard to get it out. And if it doesn’t work, then we’re sort of stuck with it.”