The Parliament of the Commonwealth
Federal Members’ Rooms
19th June, 1947
I have been asked to draw the attention of your firm to the widespread misapprehension, which exists concerning the identity of the Australian National Ensign. Most people in Sydney seem to think that this is the flag with the red base whereas this flag, of course, is the flag of the Australian Merchant Marine. It has been thought likely that this misapprehension may exist amongst some firms like yourselves who sell flags and bunting to the public.
The design of the Australian National Ensign was agreed upon by the British and Commonwealth Governments in a series of despatches which are contained in the Commonwealth Government Gazette of 20th November, 1903 (see also Government Gazette of 19th December, 1908, page 1790). A perusal of these despatches will show the Australian National Ensign is a blue ensign with the Union Jack in the upper canton and defaced by a seven-pointed star in the lower canton and the stars of the Southern Cross in the fly. At the same time the red ensign similarly defaced was established as the merchant flag of the Commonwealth for the use of the Australian Merchant Marine, and this is confirmed by Section 406 of the Commonwealth Navigation Act which states that this red ensign as defaced is “declared to be the proper colours for all merchant ships registered in Australia”.
I have drawn the attention of the Prime Minister to this matter and have spoken about it in the House. As a result the Prime Minister issued a press statement sometime ago in which he requested that the Commonwealth Blue Ensign should be flown on shore on public buildings by schools and by the public generally. Unfortunately this particular statement was not published in the newspapers at the time so that the public have not had the benefit of it. It is because of this that I take the opportunity of drawing the matter to your attention and I should be grateful if you would assist in guiding the public in this matter by supplying them with the Blue Ensign when they come to purchase the Australian National Flag. The Red Flag is, of course, still appropriate for purchase by any others wanting to fly the correct Australian flag afloat.
Howard Beale MP