The front page of Saturday's Weekend Australian has the headline "Eureka flag ban tested in court". To précis the story, construction giant LendLease has launched extraordinary legal action against building industry watchdog the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), challenging its ban on the flying of the Eureka flag at Commonwealth-funded building sites.
Lendlease argues that displaying the Eureka flag does not convey the impression that a person must be a union member to work on a federal government-funded project. And may I say congratulations to Lendlease's stance; many others should follow suit.
The ABCC is a federal agency created by the Coalition Government, and to me therein lies the issue. The Liberal and National parties (LNP) have little or no regard for, or understanding of, Australia's founding story. Eureka belongs to the nation, not political parties, organisations or individuals. It is about, as I have a said many times, "the want for fairness and a fair go for all".
In 2004, the trade union movement issued a statement stating that the Eureka flag is not a "union flag". Put simply, the trade union movement is proud to acknowledge the Eureka flag as the flag of the fair go for all. The time has come for all proud Australians to demand that this continual besmirching of the reputation of the Eureka story and its iconic Flag of the Southern Cross - the Eureka Flag - must cease and that Eureka should be elevated to its rightful place as the birthplace of Australian democracy. The first thing we need to do is to make the Eureka Flag a national flag as is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flag. Catherine King, the Federal Member for Ballarat, has been doing her very best to have the Eureka Flag recognised. We must support her endeavours.
Countries elsewhere in the world, where similar uprisings occurred, treat their founding stories with due respect and they mark the anniversaries with annual national commemorations and celebrations. Two examples are Bastille Day on 14 July in France and the US's Independence Day on 4 July. Ballarat and Victoria, as the custodians of Eureka, must be the passionate advocates for promoting 3 December as Australia's national day to celebrate our democratic freedoms. And dare I say fight to defend our rights and liberties, particularly in relation to the Eureka flag.
The uniting symbol for Eureka is the Flag of the Southern Cross. This standard was first raised by the rebels at Bakery Hill at Ballarat on 29 November 1854.
Given this seminal event in our history, the Eureka flag should be flown at half-mast on 3 December each year as a mark of remembrance and respect in honouring the fallen at Eureka and their fight for a fair go for all. Mind you, it did fly above all eight state and territory parliament houses on 3 December 2004, the 150th anniversary of Eureka.
John Howard, the prime minister at the time, refused to allow it to be flown atop Australia's Parliament House in Canberra, yet the flag was placed on display in the foyer of the Westminster Parliament in London!
Added to this, political luminaries have made significant comment on Eureka, including conservative prime minister Robert Menzies, who often wove the Eureka story into his speeches and said the uprising was "an earnest attempt at democratic government".
However, I believe a major obstacle to there being greater respect for Eureka and a national annual commemoration is how the flag has been hijacked over the years by left and right political groups in the pursuit of their own interests. Those groups have ranged from communists, socialists and trade unions to nationalists, anti-taxation lobbies, racists and neo-Nazis. More recently, the Eureka flag has been seen flying at the disturbing protests against the establishment of mosques in Bendigo and Melton.
In order to placate both the left and right factions of politics, the Eureka flag can be interpreted as a symbol of nationalism, the birth of Australian democracy, or a middle-class tax revolt, but it was without doubt a defining moment in Australia's history.
The Eureka flag is also a symbol of free speech, basic rights and a protest against unfair laws and regulations as well as a symbol of democracy and defiance.
Eureka is also what sets Ballarat apart from any other city in Australia. Again, I call on Ballarat City Council, the leaders of our city, to act to gain the recognition that Australia's founding story deserves. It is at the heart of our proud history, heritage and our people.
In Australia we proudly live beneath the Southern Cross
Ron Egeberg is a Eureka descendant and the former director of Ballarat's Eureka Centre.