The Australian pink ensign – a pink model of the acquainted Australian flag – has appeared all around the information and social media in latest months. The query is, why?
Traditionally related to Australia’s business transport vessels, the service provider navy, the flag has just lately been adopted by individuals concerned in anti-lockdown and anti-government actions.
It’s virtually sure the flag has gained recognition because of its use by Australia’s sovereign citizen (or “SovCit”) motion, a fringe group who consider legal guidelines don’t apply to them.
Since 2019, I’ve been researching the SovCit motion and the insights it reveals into public (mis)understanding of our authorized order.
To know why this specific flag is being flown requires a detour into their unusual, conspiracy-laden, pseudo-legal tradition.
Many anti-lockdown protesters consider the federal government is illegitimate. Their authorized arguments do not get up
Who’re the sovereign residents?
Self-identifying sovereign residents – and their counterparts the “Freemen on the land” – consider they possess a pure and true understanding of the authorized system. The motion emerged in America, and has unfold to Australia and different international locations.
Based on their model of the legislation, people are “sovereign”, that means they don’t seem to be sure to the legal guidelines of the nation during which they reside, except they waive these rights by accepting a contract with the federal government.
Whereas the motion has no single chief or central doctrine, SovCits consider that by reciting sure phrases, similar to “I’m a pure dwelling being” or “I don’t consent”, they’ll lawfully keep away from any obligation to obey legal guidelines and rules.
Like a magic spell, these phrases grant them a cloak of authorized immunity, and beneath that cloak, there isn’t a have to put on masks, pay taxes, or maintain a driver’s licence.
To these with any understanding of the authorized system, these arguments are with out basis. It’s not shocking SovCits wrestle to tell apart between legitimate and fanciful authorized arguments: we do a poor job of training Australians about how the authorized system operates, and the system stays irreducibly complicated and profoundly inaccessible to most Australians.
Nonetheless, SovCit arguments are devoid of any authorized advantage.
It’s a mistake to assume such eccentric actions are benign. Some SovCits have been recognized as anti-government extremists and a possible terrorism menace in Australia, in addition to in America.
The motion has gained prominence in the course of the pandemic, with the “pick-and-choose” strategy to authorized obligations attracting anti-health measure activists, such because the notorious “Bunnings Karen”.
By encouraging individuals to ignore legal guidelines they don’t like, the SovCit motion presents an insidious menace to our authorized order.
So what’s the Australian pink ensign?
Again to that unusual flag. The Australian pink ensign is the official flag flown at sea by Australian registered service provider ships.
The flag was developed as a part of the Commonwealth authorities’s 1901 federal flag design competitors, which resulted in two flags: the acquainted Australian blue ensign for official Commonwealth authorities use and our nationwide flag, and the Australian pink ensign for the service provider navy, which refers to our shrinking business transport fleet.
Within the early years of federation, the pink ensign was an essential image of Australian id as the principle flag utilized by non-public residents on land and at sea. Australians have fought beneath it throughout each world wars.
Public protest or egocentric ratbaggery? Why free speech would not provide the proper to hazard different individuals’s well being
So, are fringe teams utilizing it to recommend they’re non-public residents? The flag’s historical past suggests it’s not that easy.
At federation, Australia was not an impartial nation, however a dominion of the British empire. Australian citizenship didn’t exist till 1948, and the UK parliament may theoretically go legal guidelines governing Australia till 1986.
So, within the half century after federation, the official flag for basic use was the Union Jack.
Like the present governor-general’s flag, the Australian blue ensign was used solely by the Commonwealth authorities. It didn’t turn out to be the final nationwide flag till 1953.
Earlier than that date, if residents wished a particular flag to indicate an Australian relatively than a British id, they tended to (mis)use the Australian pink ensign.
Why do SovCits use the Australian pink ensign?
Sadly, the decentralised nature of the SovCit motion makes it tough to achieve definitive conclusions.
For a motion that has an inherent mistrust of presidency, the flag’s historic utilization as a “individuals’s flag” should appear interesting.
The same attraction might derive from the very fact the ANZACs fought beneath this flag (as Australian divisions of the British Military).
In each instances, although, a bit information is a harmful factor. In each instances, these historic usages spoke extra to Australia’s id as a British dominion.
Certainly, RSL Australia has condemned the flag’s use by protesters as disrespectful.
Alternatively, the utilization might derive from the maritime nature of the flag. One of many extra outlandish claims of the SovCits is that the one legitimate sources of legislation are the widespread legislation and “admiralty legislation”. As such, a maritime individuals’s flag should seem to be the right image.
There are darker potentialities, too. For some individuals, it may very well be an try and mirror using the Canadian pink ensign by the far-right. In Canada, white supremacists see their pink ensign as a
throwback to a time when Canadians have been overwhelmingly white.
Within the US, the SovCit motion has explicitly racist and antisemitic roots, rising from the Posse Comitatus motion led by the infamous preacher William Potter Gale.
The same undertone might underpin using the flag in Australia, a racist craving for a non-existent “golden age” when Australia was “free” and “white”.
To me, using this flag additionally suggests a craving for certainty and an easier previous, that, although misguided and exclusionary, maybe emerges from the collective trauma of the final two years.
Within the minds of those fringe protesters, they don’t seem to be law-breakers, however patriots who possess a deep and true understanding of the legislation.
Just like the Australian pink ensign itself, these actions take acquainted pictures and concepts and twist them.
Joe McIntyre doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.