Union Jacks and Southern Skies - part one, section four
The Decision Lies With Britain
But it was not with the Australian Government that the final decision for a new flag was to lie, but with the British Government. Even though Australia had become a federation of colonies, that did not make her a sovereign nation, but instead just made her a bigger "colony" (albeit one with more status).
The Government Gazette announcing the competition had stated that "The successful design will be submitted to the Imperial authorities", while also acknowledging that it was possible that "the design be not accepted by the Imperial authorities". The need for such approval from the British Government was apparently in the minds of the judges, as they wrote in their final report that their chosen flag design "should be agreeable to the home authorities" ("home authorities" referring to Britain, not Australia, as to "Empire men" Britain was the "Home Country"). The Judges' chosen design was publicly revealed on 3rd of September 1901 at a Flag Exhibition opened by Prime Minister Barton.(10)
In November 1901 Prime Minister Barton told the House of Representatives that "The Government is submitting for the consideration of the Right Honorable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, a flag, the design of which was sent in by five individuals at the recent competition... Also another design which met with the approval of the Naval Assessors to the Board of Judges".(11)
The other flag that Barton spoke of was the popular Australian Federation Flag, often referred to as the "Australian Ensign" or the "Australian Flag", used widely by the Australian Federation League to promote the federation of the Australian colonies, and which had been regarded as Australia's "unofficial national flag". Barton had sent to Britain both the competition winning design and the Federation Flag design for a decision by the "Home Authorities" as to which should be the Commonwealth flag. It was not until the 20th February 1903 (over a year later!) that the official advice appeared in the Government Gazette that King Edward VII had approved a design, being the one which had won the flag competition.(12)
So, the Commonwealth Flag was chosen, not by the Australian people, not by a panel of Australian flag judges, not by the Australian Government, but by the British Government and King Edward VII (or perhaps more specifically, by the British Admiralty or the Secretary of State for the Colonies?).
Union Jacks and Southern Skies
Australian Nationalism Information Database - www.ausnatinfo.angelfire.com/~natinfo