Keeping the flag flying
RALPH Erthel and his friends raised the flag at his Sandy Beach home last week ? but his was the sky blue and white five-starred Eureka flag, not the more familiar official Australian flag.
Mr Erthel, who has erected a seven metre-high flagpole in his front yard to keep the flag aloft, said he was flying the Eureka flag because it was the traditional Australian symbol of protest.
"It started with blood being spilled (to gain freedoms) which are now being legislated away with the stroke of a pen," he said.
"It's high time we got a bit back to earth and back to what living in Australia is all about."
Mr Erthel said he was particularly concerned with the inequality between highly paid executives and shop floor workers; how things were getting tougher and tougher for the disadvantaged; the difficulties young people had finding apprenticeships plus the disincentives to business to offer apprenticeships and how new industrial relations laws skewed the balance too far towards the employer.
"In 1992, the ratio between the pay of the shop floor worker and the CEO was about one to 30," he said.
"Now it's way beyond one in 1000."
The 53-year-old Sandy Beach resident said he was not a hobby protester and didn't expect his flag to change anything overnight, but he felt some action was needed.
"Five years ago I wouldn't have been found dead doing such a thing," he said.
The 20-minute battle at the Eureka Stockade on December 3, 1854, was a defining event for de- mocracy in Australia.
Huge groups of gold miners on the Ballarat goldfields began protesting in October 1854 about the oppressive licensing and inspection of miners and official corruption. They were also demanding all males get the vote.
What followed was the 20-minute Eureka Stockade battle, where the makeshift wooden stockade sheltering the miners was stormed by police and soldiers, killing 22 miners and five troopers.
Although 13 diggers went to trial, in the end the only person imprisoned as a result of the battle was the editor of the Ballarat Times, Henry Seekamp, who was found guilty of seditious libel after he lambasted the government and the police.
Although the miners were defeated, their stand led to political reforms which began the process of establishing representative government in Australia. In 1855 Peter Lalor, the leader of the miners' rebellion, became the first Member of the Legislative Council (MLC).