Student outraged over CQU's show of respect for Whitlam

NOBLE ACT: CQUniversity student Paul Thomas lowers a flag at the university.
NOBLE ACT: CQUniversity student Paul Thomas lowers a flag at the university. Austin King ROK

BIOLOGY major Paul Thomas wasn't fazed by the element of jeopardy on his studies when he took it upon himself to lower CQUniversity's flags yesterday.

Following the death of former prime minister Gough Whitlam, who during his years in power ended conscription, transformed indigenous policy and more notably offered free tertiary education, Paul was "disappointed" to see four Australian flags at the university not at half mast.

They were the Australian flag, the ensign of Queensland, the Australian Aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islander flags.

Paul said he took the proper channels first, before he took matters into his own hands.

He called the university's vice-chancellor and the facilities manager.

Both calls went straight to voicemail.

He then called Commonwealth flag officers in Cairns to see if they could pull some strings from their end.

One officer told Paul the office couldn't do anything "but, by all means, you could try to lower them yourselves".

So, he did.

He lowered the Australian and Queensland flags to half-mast yesterday morning, out of respect for Mr Whitlam and the tertiary-free policy the former prime minister introduced in the late 1970s.

Paul told The Morning Bulletin he however couldn't lower the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags because their cords were secured by padlocks.

He said he was tempted to break the padlocks to lower the flags.

Paul, 49, said he was disappointed the university didn't lower the flags out of respect for Mr Whitlam, 98.

Paul is from Brisbane but he's studying a Master of Science degree in biology at CQUniversity.

"I was fortunate to have been one of the lucky ones to have taken up a tertiary-free education degree (in science) in 1983," he said.

"It's because of Mr Whitlam's political influence I, along with thousands of Australians in my generation, could become tertiary-qualified.

"I thought the university would have been acutely aware of Mr Whitlam's contribution to Australia's education sector."

CQUniversity media spokesman Marc Barnbaum said the university very rarely lowered its flags to half mast for "notable" people.

He said the university did often lower its flags to half mast for major tragedies that claimed multiple lives.

"The university is not a government establishment and we therefore don't come under the normal government protocols for flag raising," he said.

Topics:  gough whitlam

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