And so another Australia Day is behind us, and once again it has stirred up the ancient arguments that seemingly define this nation more than any political or military achievements: Republic or monarchy? Terrible national anthem or even worse national anthem? Ford or Vegemite?

And, of course, there is the perennial debate over the flag. We’ve been asked to consider changing the flag, a proposal that has outraged many people who point out that the flag we currently have is part of our history; there is no doubt that it represents us as a people extraordinarily well, the combination of stars and Union Jack standing testament to our heritage as a nation of British astronomers. There is also the fact that our forefathers fought for this flag, in myriad wars. I confess I’m a little confused by this fact: would they still have fought if it’d been a different flag, or were they fighting for that particular aesthetic configuration? It does seem an awful lot of effort to go to for what is essentially a two-dimensional image, but I suppose it is a lot prettier than the German flag, so one can understand their fervour.

But the issue of changing the flag, as worthy as the incumbent is, is complicated somewhat by the fairly recent development regarding the flag-as-fashion. Because in latter years, some people – as I hesitate to use the word “bogans”, let us simply call them the Differently Suburban, or DS for short – have taken to treating the Australian flag less as a standard to bear high above the heads of patriots, to inspire in battle and lower in tragedy, than as clothing.

And frankly, DS people, it’s not really working for you.

For a start, it’s completely asymmetrical, which gives it a messy, haphazard sort of look, as if it were slapped together on a whim. Wrap it around yourself and you’ve got stars over one shoulder, the Union Jack round a hip, Federation over your crotch – it’s a hodgepodge.

What’s more, it sends a disturbing message about Australia and its people. Put yourself in the place of a foreigner, watching our national celebrations on one of those 24-hour global news channels that are all the rage these days. You see an assemblage of young Aussies standing about with flags wrapped around them. What is your automatic and quite natural first thought?

That’s right: these people can’t afford clothes.

Why else would someone wear a flag? Good God, those foreigners must be thinking; what a poverty-stricken, godforsaken country this “Australia” must be, that it cannot afford to clothe its own people. That they are so desperate they must steal flags, doubtlessly from the corruption-funded palaces of the cruel and avaricious oligarchs, to wrap around themselves as a shield from the elements. What sort of modern democracy lets its citizens go about with a meagre flag as their only protection from the harsh winds?

I am afraid, my fellow Australians, that this flag is making us look like a nation of hobos.

And the habit of wearing clothes based on the flag is, if anything, worse. You see these people walking around, wearing flag t-shirts and flag shorts and flag bikini tops. This is just creepy. It’s like the Australian populace has turned into the Von Trapp family, and our governess has handmade some play clothes for us out of our father’s flag. Which would be all right if the people wearing these clothes could sing, but we know from a long series of Australia Days that this is not the case.

So what is the answer? Clearly, we are not going to stop people wearing flags; the DS folk are stubborn and their minds nigh-unchangeable. So really the only option is indeed to change the flag. To something more fetching. Something that, if draped about the human body, at least doesn’t look like that body’s just crawled out of a cardboard box. If we could actually design a flag that looked like a pair of denim cut-offs and a singlet, that would be ideal, but at least make it something neat and symmetrical, maybe in green and gold, or some soft pastels.

Please, for the image of our great nation, pollies, get onto this. Patriotism and fashion can be compatible, with a little bit of ingenuity and know-how. Don’t let Australia spend another January 26 telling the world it’s a land of tramps and orphans. Let’s get this distraction out of the way so we can focus on the positives, like our many venomous snakes and world-class road-sealing skills.

Let’s make sure the next generation of diggers are fighting for fabulousness.