Australians want a new national flag - but not too different from the existing one, it seems.
A survey of more than 8000 people has found that this design, in which the Federation Star and the Southern Cross continue to feature prominently on a blue background, was the most popular among voters.
Gone is any sign of the Union Jack and instead, the national colours of green and gold feature in a wave-like design at the bottom of the flag, called the Southern Horizon.
The Alternative Australian Flag Survey was conducted by Dr Benjamin T Jones, an adjunct research fellow at Western Sydney University, and aimed to find out Australians' attitudes to their flag and how they would feel if it was changed.
The survey, which ran from December 16 to January 25, asked voters to choose their favourite from among six flag designs, and was part of a larger Australian Research Council-funded project examining Australian national symbols.
Revealing the results on Australia Day, Dr Jones said 31 per cent of respondents voted for Southern Horizon, followed by the Reconciliation Flag, which attracted 28 per cent of the vote. That flag features the colours red, yellow and black prominently to recognise indigenous Australians.
"Those who support a new Australian flag design fall primarily into two categories; those who want a neutral design with some link to the current flag, and those who want a completely new design with specific recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples," Dr Jones said.
He said the winning design featured "minimal changes beyond the removal of the Union Jack".
The survey results mirrored the recent flag referendum in New Zealand, he said, where the winning alternative design, the Silver Fern, maintained the blue background and red stars of the current national flag.
While 8140 people took part in the survey, only 6427 choose a favourite alternative flag design.
Dr Jones said that could be interpreted as a protest vote by those who wanted to keep the current flag, and from those who favoured a design not included in the survey.
The survey found 64 per cent of respondents believed the Australian flag should change, compared with 36 per cent who believed it should remain the same.
The Eureka Flag came third, with 15 per cent of the vote, however many people rejected the design for its "negative association with unions and extreme right-wing groups", Dr Jones said.
The Golden Wattle flag, the Sporting Flag, and the Southern Cross flag were the least popular..
The most common responses when asked what elements should be in a new Australian flag were: "simplicity", "Southern Cross", and "green and gold".
Most participants who favoured a new flag suggested they would support any design that did not have a Union Jack, even if it was not their favourite, Dr Jones said.
Morrison would make ‘excellent president’
Australian of the Year David Morrison would make an ideal head of state in a future Australian republic, according to Australian Republican Movement chairman Peter FitzSimons.
It is great to call him one of our own.
General Morrison, the former army chief, has vowed to make pushing for an Australian republic one of his priority issues during his tenure as Australian of the Year.
"With great respect to those who don't share my views and recognising our proud history of European settlement in this country and beyond, over 200 years and more, I will lend my voice to the republican movement in this country," General Morrison said in his acceptance speech on Monday night.
"It is time, I think, to at least revisit the question so that we can stand both free and fully independent amongst the community of nations."
Although he acknowledged this would be controversial, General Morrison said it was time to restart the national conversation about a republic 16 years after the defeat of the 1999 referendum.
[Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes a selfie with new Australian citizens Lydia Banda-Mukuka and Chilandu Kalobi Chilaika after the citizenship ceremony on Australia Day in Canberra.]
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes a selfie with new Australian citizens Lydia Banda-Mukuka and Chilandu Kalobi Chilaika after the citizenship ceremony on Australia Day in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Meares
In his first major comments on the republic since the issue flared, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said there was "no doubt" another referendum would take place but "the timing of that referendum has to be right".
"I have led a yes case for a republic into a heroic defeat once. I have no desire to do so again," he said. "If you really are committed to Australia becoming a republic, then you want to be sure that the manner and the timing of the referendum is as such that it is successful and that it unites rather than divides Australians."
Mr Turnbull said a referendum would fail if it was seen to be politically driven.
"To get momentum - and frankly there was more momentum in the late 90s than there is now - it needs to have grassroots support."
General Morrison, who famously told officers who disrespect women to "get out" of the army, has been a member of the Australian Republican Movement for about five months.
Mr FitzSimons said General Morrison would be a "boon" for the republican cause this year.
"I was doing cartwheels - it was just fantastic," Mr FitzSimons said of his appointment.
"It is great to call him one of our own."
Mr FitzSimons said General Morrison, who led the army from June 2011 to May 2015, was the type of person Australians would be proud to have as their head of state.
"He would make an outstanding president or governor-general," Mr FitzSimons said.
"I deeply admire him and the great service he has given our country."
Mr FitzSimons personally favours a minimalist republican model in which the prime minister selects Australia's head of state with the approval of the Parliament.
He said General Morrison's appointment had capped off an "extraordinary" day for the republican movement, which received front page coverage around the country by convincing seven of the eight premiers and chief ministers to sign a pledge affirming their support for an Australian republic. The movement has quadrupled its membership over the past year, he said, with Mr Turnbull's arrival as Prime Minister also boosting the cause.
Mr Turnbull said he believes Australia will not move towards a republic until after Queen Elizabeth II has died.
"There are many more urgent issues confronting Australia and indeed confronting the government than the momentum or the desire for Australia to become a republic."
- Matthew Knott