Labor is fighting to prevent right-wing extremist party Australia First Party from being able to use the Eureka flag as its logo on the ballot paper, highlighting flaws with the recent changes to election legislation.

As part of the changes to Senate voting made by the Coalition government before the July 2 election, parties can now register logos for their parties to be included on the ballot paper. The only restrictions are that the logo can’t be obscene, can’t be anyone else’s logo, and can’t closely resemble the logo of any other person.

[‘I can’t believe it’s not Labor’ and other electoral shenanigans]

But the legislation does not prevent parties from registering logos that might have significance to certain groups.

There were many objections when Australia First Party in New South Wales filed an application with the Australian Electoral Commission to use the Eureka flag as its logo. Australia First Party wants to scale back immigration, “end multiculturalism” and refers to same-sex marriage as “deviant marriage”. The AWU and other trade union groups want the AEC to forbid the Australia First Party from using the Eureka flag, given its long association with the labour movement. The flag is also very important to organisations in Ballarat, where the Eureka flag was first raised as part of the Eureka Stockade dispute in 1854.

Last month, however, the AEC said its hands were tied as it had “no discretion to consider historical and cultural claims regarding the use of the Eureka flag”.

To fix that, Ballarat MP Catherine King on Monday introduced a private member’s bill that would insert a clause in the recently amended Commonwealth Electoral Act to require the AEC to consider historical and cultural claims to logos, and allow people to object to logos on that ground.

The bill wouldn’t stop Australia First Party or any other political party using the Eureka flag in any other context, just not as their registered logo with the AEC.

[Rogues, whackjobs and NQR (not quite racist): meet your minor parties]

Australia First Party, which has the flag prominently displayed on its Facebook page and website, remains defiant. Dr Jim Saleam told ABC radio earlier this week that the Eureka flag had been used by nationalist groups in Australia since the 1970s and the flag was also used in 1864 at the Lambing Flat riots fighting back against the migration of cheaper Chinese labour.

“We could think of no better flag to represent the cause of Australian nationalism,” he told the ABC.

Saleam said “Australia is being re-colonised by China” and said other parties such as Katter’s Australian Party and the Liberal Democrats had at times used the Eureka flag in their political material, but indicated he believed the “working-class component” of the Eureka flag’s history had more to do with Australia First than any other labour movement party.

The Migration Heritage Centre notes that the flag has been associated with both left- and right-wing groups in the past including “trades unions, nationalists, anti taxation lobbies, communists and neo-Nazis”.

Saleam ran in the 2016 election in the western Sydney seat of Lindsay, picking up just 1.2% of the vote.

In the United States a similar campaign has begun being waged by the cartoonist behind the popular Pepe meme, seeking to reclaim his cartoon from its association with alt-right groups supportive of US President-elect Donald Trump.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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