SYDNEY - The organisers of the Big Day Out rock festival say they have not banned the Australian flag at Sydney, but they do want concert-goers to leave it at home this Thursday.
News Ltd today reported that organisers of the Big Day Out at Homebush said they would confiscate any flag or bandanna featuring the national symbol at the gates.
Event organiser Ken West was quoted as saying fans' behaviour last year in the wake of the Cronulla riots and the recent ethnic violence at the Australian Open tennis tournament had forced his hand.
"The Australian flag was being used as gang colours. It was racism disguised as patriotism and I'm not going to tolerate it," Mr West said.
But organisers today said Mr West had been misinterpreted.
"We are not banning the Australian flag but are simply discouraging its use for anti-social purposes at the Big Day Out," organisers said in a statement early this morning on the BDO website.
"In recent times, there has been an increased incidence of flags brandished aggressively and this has led to increased tension.
"Our only intention in discouraging this activity at the Big Day Out is to ensure that our patrons are not subjected to this aggressive behaviour.
"With all this in mind and the aim to create a happy, peaceful MUSICAL event, organisers would like to request that fans please leave their flags at home."
The organisers said there was no need for the Australian flag to be waved at the Sydney concert as it was not an Australia Day event.
The ban has prompted a chorus of disapproval from top politicians, including Prime Minister John Howard, and the RSL.
The event tours six cities in Australia and New Zealand but the ban will only affect Sydney, where the festival has been shifted to the day before its usual Australia Day date to avoid nationalistic overtones.
"Contrary to the reports in the media, it was never our intention to disrespect the symbolism of the Australian or any other flag," the BDO said.
"Unfortunately the media reports yesterday were not quoted accurately and we must thank the participating media for wasting everybody's time, including Prime Minister John Howard, Premier Morris Iemma, NSW RSL President Don Rowe, Keysar Trad (a confidant of the Mufti Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly) and Burt Lane of the Australian National Flag Association."