The Australian Labor Party supports the recommendations of this inquiry. We are strongly of the view that the negotiations over the future use of the Aboriginal flag be concluded in a timely manner.
With this in mind, the ALP recommends that in the event that the Commonwealth government is unable to negotiate an outcome with Mr Harold Thomas and the current licensees, the government compulsorily acquires those licences. The purpose of any such acquisition should be limited to allowing the collective free use of the flag and its design for Aboriginal individuals, communities and organisations as well as the general public for non-profit purposes. The commercial rights of the parties should be respected as far as possible in any compulsory acquisition.
It is clear that the conduct of WAM Clothing and its approach to enforcement of its rights as a licensee is a significant contributor to the harm and distress experienced by Aboriginal people. Evidence to the committee that the Aboriginal flag is being held upside down or that it is slowly dying emphasises the deep distress and anguish about the current circumstances. Sorry Business is a deeply significant ceremony; references by First Nations people to the flag as dying heighten that distress.
In that regard, the ALP is concerned that prolonged negotiations between the Commonwealth government, Mr Thomas and the licensees will exacerbate the distress and harm to Aboriginal communities. Resolution of the current dispute in 12 or 18 months' time may be too late and may result in Aboriginal people—as some have already done—abandoning the flag, a flag that has since its inception been a symbol of solidarity and struggle, of pride and protest, a unifying flag of and for Aboriginal people. We therefore urge the Commonwealth government, Mr Thomas and the licensees to engage in negotiations constructively, in good faith and good time. The ALP is concerned that the importance and history of the flag is being lost to community and feels that it is appropriate to have the negotiations completed by 26 January 2021.
Senator Malarndirri McCarthySenator Patrick Dodson
ChairSenator for Western Australia
Senator for the Northern Territory