A far-right political party from New South Wales has won the right to use the Eureka flag as its emblem.
Victorian Trades Hall Council, Federation University and Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm were among 11 written submissions to the Australian Electoral Commission opposing the Australia First Party’s use of the flag.
The AEC announced its decision to approve the use of the flag for Australia First’s logo on Friday morning on the grounds objectors provided “insufficient evidence” the application should be refused.
Senator Leyonhjelm raised concerns the far-right party’s use of the image would lead to confusion between the two parties, as the Liberal Democrats had used the flag on their former website and letterheads.
The logo was entered in the Register of Political Parties on Thursday.
The AEC said it had no discretion to consider “historical and cultural claims” surrounding the Eureka flag.
Ballarat Trades Hall Council secretary Brett Edgington said the decision by the AEC marked a “sad day for Australia”.
“(I feel) Absolute and utter dismay and disgust that our great national symbol of unity has been hijacked by Australia First Party and registered by the AEC.”
Ballarat City Council will continue its campaign to have the flag recognised as a national flag, a classification that could protect it against uses deemed inappropriate, current councilor and north ward candidate Vicki Coltman said.
Mrs Coltman said the campaign would be a matter to be picked up by the new council and could take several years.
She said the loan of the original flag to museums outside Ballarat once its lease to M. A. D. E. expires in 2018 could be part of a lobbying strategy moving forward.
“Having the flag connected to Ballarat and connected to a group so anti-multiculturalism is not good, so I think we need to take the steps to protect the flag and then we can address how it's being used,” she said.
In the 2016 federal election Australia First received just 3005 votes for its only two senate candidates, both in Western Australia, amounting to just 0.22 of the overall vote.
Australia First’s only Victorian candidate Susan Jakobi received 3 per cent of the vote in Lalor in the last federal election, behind the far-right Rise Up Australia Party on 4 per cent and the Greens on 9 per cent.
The party’s website said in defense of their fight to use the Eureka flag: “Our party might object to kids using national flags as capes or beach towels as perhaps a little tacky, but it is their undeniable right to employ the flag.”
Australia First have been contacted for comment.