2 March 2021

Probing the polls: Facebook troubles and our coat of arms

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Coat of arms

Canberra’s current coat of arms. Image: file.

It’s been a dramatic week for the Australian media industry after social media users woke to echoing silence on their Facebook news feeds. But quite a few of you think that’s fair enough on Mark Zuckerberg’s account.

The social media giant is in the midst of an extended stoush with the Federal Government over payments for news and flexed its muscles by blocking local news views and interactions.

The battle’s been observed keenly around the world, although there’s been a compromise deal in the last few days that has brought news back to your social media screens.

It seems everyone got a lot of what they wanted: the bargaining code passed the Senate, news media will receiver a share of the advertising pie from Google and Facebook and Facebook earned some concessions.

But that’s prompted further debate about the role and responsibility that Facebook plays in our lives. Was their decision to cancel news an abuse of power as some have argued? Or is their huge market reach something we’ve allowed to develop and now must simply live with?

We asked Are Facebook within their rights to shut down local news? A total of 668 of you voted. Your choices were No, they have a responsibility to the community, and this attracted 250 votes or 37 per cent of the total.

Alternatively, you could vote Yes, this is a commercial matter and they can do what they like. This garnered the majority of the votes – 63 per cent of the total or 418 votes.

This week we’re wondering about our coat of arms. Originally requested by the Department of Defence to be used on the then newly commissioned ship, HMAS Canberra, the Canberra city coat of arms was designed and drawn by C R Wylie and features a black swan and a white swan. It was granted by the College of Arms in London on 7 November 1928.

But for some years, locals have been scratching their heads over why our city is best represented by a castle, crossed swords and the motto For the Queen, the law and the people. The coat of arms also appears on the official ACT flag and other official representations.

So do we need a new, specific ACT coat of arms that represents the Territory rather than an outdated representation of the city of Canberra?

The ACT Government has flagged a vote on the issue later this year and campaigner Terry Fewtrell says any design should speak to, and of, the people and place here.

“We’re saying the symbol must say something about the place we live in and the community that we are,” he said.

“We would also expect there be some kind of significant expression of the Indigenous presence that has been in the land here for 60,000 years or more.”

Stephen Saunders wrote: “Symbols do matter. The British monarch is the white hereditary chief of the Church of England. An emblem showcasing medieval queens, crowns and castles doesn’t represent 21st century Canberra.

“In a small jurisdiction with multi-member electorates, sometimes it is just possible to creep forward, by slow degrees. I’m confident that ACT will ditch its white ‘Rule Britannia’ coat of arms decades before Australia finally updates its flag, head of state, and national day.”

Jwinston wrote: “So many more important things to spend money on – health, education and roads come to mind”, while other suggestions included rampant Skywhales and rainbow roundabouts.

We’re asking:

Do we need an ACT coat of arms at all?

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