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The Rainbow Flag Is Free To Fly In An Australian Government Building, After "War" Ends

Other groups will also be allowed to fly their own flags, if they want.

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Afp Contributor / AFP / Getty Images

The Department of Finance will allow an LGBTI group of staff to continue to use the rainbow flag in its Canberra headquarters, as the LGBTI micronation that declared "war" on Australia ends its 13-year conflict.

Last year, amid the ongoing debate on same-sex marriage, conservative Liberal senator Eric Abetz raised a complaint about the Department of Finance's headquarters in Canberra having a rainbow flag in the lobby.

"There was the rainbow flag on display in the [Department of Finance] lobby, which, believe it or not, some people see as an activist flag for a particular cause in relation to whether or not we should change the legislation on marriage," Abetz said in Senate Estimates in February last year. "Some people, of course, support that cause, others don't."

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

Abetz said that no flags should be flown that were associated with "certain political campaigns that might upset [department] staff".

Finance minister Mathias Cormann joked he would launch a "flag inquiry", and the department did review the use of the flag, despite Crikey reporting at the time that there were no written or email complaints from staff about the flag.

The department has now confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the flag would not be banned, but other groups would also be allowed to fly their own flags.

"As an inclusive employer and consistent with its Diversity Action Plan, the Department of Finance Executive Board has agreed to support a number of staff networks across the department, including their preferred way to be acknowledged as important contributors to the department," a spokesperson said in a statement.

"The Finance Department’s LGBTI staff network has a rainbow flag, which is used at network events. When not in use the flag has been stored in one of the two lift lobbies."

At the time Abetz flagged the issue of the flag, he joked that the rainbow flag was the "flag of the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands that declared war on Australia".

"This is their official flag, and of course it's the flag of a hostile nation if we are to believe them [as] having declared war on Australia," Abetz said.

The Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands declared itself an independent nation from Australia in 2004, protesting changes to the Marriage Act that enshrined in legislation the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

The war is over, however. The micronation announced when Australia voted overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage in the postal survey in November last year that the government and kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands would be dissolved and the territory returned to the people of Australia.

Another aspect of Australia's debate on same-sex marriage after the law was changed in December, the issue of religious freedom, still remains. Yesterday the panel for the Philip Ruddock-led review into Australia's religious freedom met in Sydney for the first time ahead of the report due in March.

Ruddock told ABC's RN Breakfast that there have been over 100 submissions to the review so far.

Although the terms of reference for the inquiry indicated submissions would remain private, the panel has decided to make all future submissions public, provided there are no legal or privacy issues.

The panel will contact those who have already made submissions in order to seek permission to make them public.

The deadline for submissions has been extended until mid-February and submissions will be published online before the end of March.

Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

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