• The Aboriginal flag flies alongside the Australian flag on top of the Harbour Bridge on January 26, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Getty)Source: Getty
Four years ago the now NSW Premier accused Labor's commitment to flying the Aboriginal flag on the Harbour Bridge as being "virtue signalling". Now, his government will do the same, for a hefty cost.
Rachael Knowles

21 Jun 2022 - 5:15 PM  UPDATED 21 Jun 2022 - 5:15 PM

The NSW government has come under fire, being forced to review a $25million commitment to installing the Aboriginal flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge by 2023.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced the progress on Sunday, with the funding being allocated from the 2022-23 NSW Budget.

“Our Indigenous history should be celebrated and acknowledged so young Australians understand the rich and enduring culture that we have here with our past,” he said.

“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.”

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Premier's past perspective

Despite the Premier’s sentiments, an opinion piece he wrote in February of 2018 for the Daily Telegraph has resurfaced.

In the piece, Mr Perrottet, who was the state treasurer at the time, criticised then Labor leader Luke Foley for committing to flying the Aboriginal flag on the bridge saying he could instead plonk “a giant screen that can be quickly and easily updated to broadcast Labor’s latest social justice warrior cause”.

“We would call it ‘the NSW Labor Party Virtue Signal’,” wrote the now Premier.

“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.”

Mr Perrottet compared the decision to that of “changing the date of Australia Day”, accusing it to be designed to “stroke the egos of the inner-city elites”.

He noted it would not “lift a single Indigenous community out of poverty, and it won’t close the gap one inch” and recounted learnings from his visit to the Northern Territory’s Nyangatjatjara College.

“We need to be united as a nation — one Australia under one flag,” he wrote.

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Reviewing the pricetag

The flagpoles situated on the Sydney Harbour Bridge stand at 20 metres high, the same sizing as a six-storey building.

Each flag measures nine metres by 4.5 metres and so requires the flagpole to withstand all weather conditions.

Whilst announcing the decision, Mr Perrottet was asked by a reporter the reasoning behind the high price tag.

“I don’t know, but it does, apparently,” he responded.

"The fact that we built the [Sydney] Harbour Bridge back in the 1920's ... I'm even surprised it takes this long. The first briefs said it would take two years to do.

"I'll go to Bunnings myself and climb up there and put the pole up."

Since, the Premier has ordered Transport NSW, the department responsible for the project, to review and reassess the costing — saying it “doesn’t seem to pass the pub test”.

Both Transport NSW and the Aboriginal Affairs Department have committed to working closely with Aboriginal stakeholders on the project.

The Premier first announced the plans to install the Aboriginal flag on the bridge permanently in February after five years of advocacy from Kamilaroi woman Cheree Toka.

At the time it was estimated to take 2 years, now it is scheduled to be installed by the end of the year.

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