Dominic Perrottet is so keen to put the Aboriginal flag on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge that he vowed to ‘run to Bunnings’ for the $25 million flagpole.
But just four years earlier he mocked the idea as ‘Labor’s latest social justice warrior cause’ when the NSW opposition proposed it.
The premier, when he was treasurer, rubbished the plan on his Facebook page on February 3, 2018, after then-opposition leader Luke Foley championed it.
‘I have a great idea for Luke Foley: instead of putting the Aboriginal flag on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, how about just plonking a giant blank screen that can be quickly and easily updated to broadcast Labor’s latest social justice warrior cause?’ he wrote.
Dominic Perrottet is so keen to put the Aboriginal flag on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge that he vowed to ‘run to Bunnings’ for the $25 million flagpole
The premier, when he was treasurer, rubbished the plan on his Facebook page on February 3, 2018, after then-opposition leader Luke Foley championed it
On the same day, Mr Perrottet wrote an op-ed further condemning Mr Foley’s call to put the flag on the bridge as ‘the NSW Labor Party Virtue Signal’.
‘Maybe it could even be programmed to automatically shift with the wind. Because that’s all Foley’s proposal is: a lavish exercise in trendy virtue signalling,’ he wrote.
‘Like changing the date of Australia Day, it’s designed to stroke the egos of the inner-city elites that control Labor’s agenda.’
Mr Perrottet accused Labor of ’empty symbolism and gesture politics, designed to divide rather than unite’ and insisted the country ‘needed to be united as a nation – one Australia under one flag’.
‘We aren’t interested in the social-justice-warrior games that foment division and make things worse,’ he wrote.
Mr Perrottet more constructively argued that flying the flag on the bridge was a symbolic act that would do little to help indigenous people in practice.
‘We prefer practical solutions that actually make people’s lives better, now and into the future,’ he wrote.
The Aboriginal flag will be permanently flown atop the bridge by the end of the year following a five-year-long grassroots campaign
Mr Foley and indigenous activist Cheree Toka after the then-opposition leader called for the flag to fly on the bridge. Ms Toka was drafted in to help sell Mr Perrottet’s plan four years later
Fast-forward four years and the now-premier is so keen to do exactly what he railed against in 2018 that he said the $25 million cost was ‘a small price to pay’ for unity.
‘I’m even surprised it takes this long. I mean I made the announcement a while ago and the first brief that came back was that it takes two years to do,’ he said.
‘I’ll go to Bunnings myself and climb up there and put the pole up.
‘But apparently it does, apparently that’s the costing, and I think that it’s an important decision that we’ve made.
‘I think it brings unity to our country and I think it’s a small price to pay for that unification.’
Mr Perrottet, who has been dubbed ‘Dom ‘the Builder’ because of the billions he’s spending on construction in NSW, was asked on Channel 10’s The Project on Sunday why the process of adding a third flagpole to the Harbour Bridge will take so long and cost so much.
By Monday morning, though, following widespread ridicule at the price – with one voter even saying he should ‘get a second quote, bro’ – Mr Perrottet told 2GB radio’s Ben Fordham the cost ‘doesn’t seem to pass the pub test’.
‘The advice that I’ve received is that there are heritage concerns, all three poles will need to be replaced and all three of them are the equivalent size of a six-storey building,’ he said.
Ms Toka (pictured) has been fighting for three years to have the Aboriginal flag flown permanently on Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and was thrilled with the funding announcement
The Aboriginal flag will be permanently flown atop the bridge by the end of the year following a five-year-long grassroots campaign.
Kamilaroi woman Cheree Toka led the push to give the flag a prime position on Sydney Harbour for 365 days each year by organising successful petitions and fundraising $300,000 towards the cost.
Last week, Mr Perrottet committed another $25 million for construction work on the bridge to install the third flagpole.
He said flying the flag alongside the Australian and NSW state flags is an important gesture towards Closing the Gap and addressing inequality.
‘Our Indigenous history should be celebrated and acknowledged so young Australians understand the rich and enduring culture that we have here with our past,’ Mr Perrottet said on Sunday.
‘Installing the Aboriginal flag permanently on the Sydney Harbour Bridge will do just that and is a continuation of the healing process as part of the broader move towards reconciliation.’
The Aboriginal flag will be permanently flown atop Sydney Harbor Bridge after previously being flown only on special occasions such as Australia Day and NAIDOC week (pictured)
Ms Toka (pictured) organised a successful petition and raised more than $300,000 towards the cost
The flagpoles are about 20m high, the same as a six-storey building, while the flags require an attachment strong enough to withstand all weather conditions.
Transport for NSW and Aboriginal Affairs will engage with key stakeholders about the project.
Mr Perrottet had previously committed to giving the Aboriginal flag a place on the Harbour Bridge in February.
The funding, however, provides a guarantee it will be in place before next year after consultants initially said engineering and construction work could take up to two years.
Ms Toka said she was thrilled at the success of the campaign.
‘I think this is really important for us as Indigenous people, achieving reconciliation through recognition,’ she said.
The Aboriginal flag being flown on the bridge was previously debated in parliament in 2019 but was knocked back due to the construction of a third flag being ‘too costly’ (pictured: Ms Toka and supporters)
‘While I know a flag is symbolic, it does spark conversation around the unjust things that are happening on Country to our people, and it shows that we are moving forward,’ she told NITV News.
The passionate advocate now has her sights set on other places the flag can be displayed after having a similar win in Sydney’s Inner West Council this year.
She also said the campaign is not yet finished with the next step being a change in protocol to ensure future premiers cannot remove the flag.