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Territory of Papua and New Guinea 1949-1975 (Australia)

Last modified: 2019-04-27 by ian macdonald
Keywords: papua and new guinea | canton (union flag) | southern cross | star: 7 points (white) | blue ensign |
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[Territory of Papua and New Guinea 1949-1965 (Papua New Guinea)] 1:2 image by António Martins

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The post-war administrations of the Territory of Papua - New Guinea (1945-1949) and Territory of Papua and New Guinea (1949-1975) flew the Australian Blue Ensign (Australian National Flag) for most purposes until mid-1971, and it was also flown as the flag of the territory administrator. Although it took precedence until Papua New Guinea independence in 1975, the PNG National Flag became the preferred flag to fly in the territory from mid-1971.
Jeff Thomson, 29 March 2019

Proposal for Combined Territories

[Territory of Papua 1906-1949 (Papua New Guinea)] image provided by Jonathan Dixon, 20 November 2012

After the war, the Papua and New Guinea were administrated jointly. On 19 July 1946, the administrator, J. K. Murray, proposed a flag for the combined territories which "more or less fits with the precedents in Appendix 6 of the Colonial Regulations". This proposal was an Australian blue ensign with a laurel wreath in the lower part of the flag, enclosing the inscription "T." above "P.-N G." (line drawing above). This prompted more inquiries into what flags had been used pre-war. Once again, notes at the Dept of External Territories assume Papua followed the standard British colonial model with the badge adopted in 1906, while other territories use simply the Australian flag (although they note customs regulations). In contrast, the reports from PNG (in Jan 47) describe the flags other than the UJ used pre-war both in New Guinea and Papua as based on the "Blue Ensign", understood to be the Australian version. Once again, the badge for Papua is described without reference to a crown. (pp19,12-13,9)

The idea of a new flag for the combined territories was rejected, at least partly because it was thought the Commonwealth flag would be adequate (except where an alternative was required by customs regulations) until a permanent administration was established. (pp6-7)

Where does that leave the 1908 flag? It was adopted and used with the 7 pointed star version of the Australian flag. The reference to a new flag with a crown is possibly consistent with reverting to standard British colonial flag with Admiralty approved badge. It is certainly consistent with the descriptions of PAPUA and crown on an Australian flag in Department of External Territories documents from 1949 (see my 27 October post), although the basis for those descriptions seems a bit shaky. In any case, it may be that someone decided the Australian ensign should be defaced with the Admiralty-approved badge, rather than simply the name. However, by the 40s the administration do not mention this. I would say it's very unclear whether (or when?) this defaced Australian ensign was used with a crown or not, but given the reports in 1942 and 1946/7, it was probably used in some form until 1942.

National Archives of Australia series A518 item Z918/1 barcode 109104,
Photo with notes by Tessa Jones, Papers, 1897-2006, from Papua New Guinea Association of Australia, UQFL 387, Box 8, Folder 8, Fryer Library, University of Queensland Library.
Jonathan Dixon, 20 November 2012

Customs Service Flag (1951-1975)

[Territory of Papua and New Guinea 1949-1965 (Papua New Guinea)] image by Ben Cahoon, 1 May 2012

If one takes Papua New Guinea as having come into existence in 1949, the only flag that was not purely Australian and had the Union Flag in the canton was the flag of the Customs Service. This was the Australian Blue Ensign with the addition in the fly of a white disc bearing the letters 'T.P. & N.G.C.' in bold black characters. Source: The Flag Bulletin, no. 130, 1989, which has an article on the flags of eastern New Guinea in general.
David Prothero
, 21 April 1998

In fact this is the only known distinctive official flag of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea before the present PNG National Flag started to come into use from mid-1971. It was in legislative effect from 15 November 1951 to 16 September 1975, yet quite possibly it didn't exist as a real flag. In an earlier version of the above flag image at the 'World Statesmen' website, Ben Cahoon placed the customs badge in the fly centre, within the upper part of the Southern Cross. It was an unusual defacement technique, jamming the white disc into the upper four Crux stars!
Jeff Thomson, 29 March 2019

I suppose this is the easiest way to fit a large circular disc inside Crux. This may be simply the way Ben Cahoon (at world statesmen) has interpreted a written description saying the badge is "in the fly", but given the different versions of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service flags, it's possible this design was used in real flags as well.

The customs flag Ben shows for 1949-1952 is the Papua flag approved in 1906, according to Jilek (The Flag Bulletin 130, 1989) used up until Japanese occupation, although I can't quite make sense of his claim that it was approved by Australian parliament. Ben seems to be implying that customs continued to use it after the unification of the P&NG until the flag with the "TP&NGC" badge was authorised (1951, according to Jilek).

My guess is that this flag for the unified customs flag was intended to have the badge in centre of the lower half of the flag, just like many of the Customs flags, CLS ensigns, and the proposed design for Papua and any future territories which I mentioned in my "Flags of Australian Territories" presentation at the Berlin ICV in 2007 (also published in Crux Australis volume 21, issue 86).
Jonathan Dixon, 2 May 2012

The Customs Act 1951 of Papua New Guinea says about the customs flag:

Part II - Administration of the Customs
6 Customs Flag, etc.

The vessels, boats and aircraft employed in the service of the Customs shall be distinguished from other vessels, boats and aircraft by such flag or in such other manner as is prescribed.

The customs flag is further specified in the Customs Regulations 1951
Part II - Administration of the Customs
Division - General.
2. Customs flag

The Customs flag is the National Flag, with the addition in the fly of a white ball with the letter "P.N.G.C." in black in bold characters.

The Customs Act 1951 and the Customs Regulations 1951 are both amended Acts up to and including the Customs (consequential amendments) Act 2010.] This means that the descriptions of both articles may have changed since 1951.

Is there anyone who has ever seen this customs flag?

There has been another Customs Regulation before 1951. Evidence is to be found here:

Customs Regulations
Section 12 - The Customs Flag
2. The Customs Flag shall be the flag of the Commonwealth of Australia (Blue Ensign) with the addition in the fly of a white ball with the letters "T.P. & N.G.C." in black in bold character.

Source: Laws of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea: 1949-1951 (annotated) made between 1st July, 1949 and 31st December, 1951, together with supplements to "The laws of the Territory of Papua 1888-1945 (annotated)", "The laws of the Territory of New Guinea 1921-1945 (annotated)" and "The
laws of the Territory of Papua-New Guinea 1945-1949 (annotated)", Volume 1 (Google Books, partly visible)
Jos Poels, 30 October 2012

The Customs flag prescription quoted above was the original 'as made' in Customs Regulations No 25; 15/11/1951; Regulation 2. It was amended to the current prescription at an unknown point between 1973 and 1986.
Jeff Thomson, 29 October 2015

The change in customs flag prescription from the Australian flag with T.P. & N.G.C. on the badge, to the (PNG) National Flag with P.N.G.C. was made 'editorially' before 1 January 1982. This means that it was done as part of the re-write adapting all PNG legislation for independence, with the updated legislation published en masse from 1 January 1986. The Australian flag version remained relevant for customs use until PNG independence on 16 September 1975, and the PNG flag version could have been flown under the provisional arrangements effective from 1 July 1971. In practice it is believed that the undefaced PNG National Flag was flown as a customs flag from soon after 1 July 1971 to the present day. There are on-line flag images of Australian National Flag customs flags of PNG with the badge letters changed to T.P.N.G.C. or P.N.G.C. Although it is possible that such flags did exist, there is no reliable evidence to suggest this, nor is there anything in the Customs Regulations 1951 amendments up to 1976 to confirm it.
Jeff Thomson, 29 March 2019

Ensign misunderstandings - British or Australian?

Misunderstandings happened because of the habit most people had of referring to 'blue ensign' or 'red ensign' without explaining whether they were talking about the British or Australian flags. 'The Papuan 1917 Customs Regulations (repealed 1951) specified a Blue Ensign, as far as I know, never the Commonwealth one. So it remains interpreted as the badged British flag, to me at least!
Jeff Thomson, 24 October 2012

I think there was such a misunderstanding later on in 1954. A 19 August letter from Port Moresby to the Department of Territories, forwarded directly to the Prime Minister's Department, (NAA barcode 1863037 pp238-239) outlined the current use the Australian National Flag and Australian Red Ensign in the combined territory (in line with post-Flags Act norms), and also saying that the official flag of Papua remained a blue or red ensign with the crown and PAPUA badge. The reader is referred to the Admiralty Flag Book for an image of the badge, and the pre-1906 BNG flag is described in the same way, so I would expect that they meant a British ensign rather than a Commonwealth one.

However, it seems this information caused the Papua flags to be listed as one of the officially used defacements of the Australian National Flag or Red Ensign in a table distributed by the Prime Minister's Department on 22 December. (many copies in NAA e.g. barcode 7853923, p44) Especially since the description was given in a response to a request for information specifically about defaced national flags/ensigns, this can easily have been caused simply by a different interpretation of "blue or red ensign", whether or not the compilers had any other reason to think a badged Australian flag for the territory existed.

It seems to me, though, that the authors of the 1949-1952 documents are at least partly aware of the possibility of confusion, and that they have tried to get it right. At least, if any of the disagreement is caused by simple confusion regarding the term "blue ensign", it's not clear which way it went. Even if all the documents were based on reasonably reliably sources, it's just as plausible that the Port Moresby administration were righting about flags as used 7 years earlier, while the DET were basing their conclusions on their records of approvals given or passed on by them. In particular, until we get to further evidence, the difference could be explained by Papuan authorities relying on the Flag Book at any time between 1908 and 1949.
Jonathan Dixon, 26 October 2012

The trouble is that at the highest levels of Government post-war, the existence of a PAPUA-badged Blue or Red Australian Ensign became accepted as fact. Even worse, in the 1950s they were used as a precedent to develop a  policy for ANF/ARE use in separately-administered external territories.

The various 1950s groups working on the 'flags question' supported the undefaced ANF/ARE being used for all non-Customs purposes in all the Territories. Pre-war flags, such as badged British Blue Ensigns and Union Flags were not reintroduced under the post-war combined administration. However a policy formed that where there was a separate administration, a badged ANF and badged ARE were to be used by the Administration, but not by the public in general. Although often stated, this was expected to be a later development, with undefaced flags to be used in the Territories for the foreseeable future.
Jeff Thomson, 24 October 2012

The discussions we've been talking about were occurring in the context of a committee developing policies on flag flying, many of the recommendations of which were incorporated into the Flags Act in 1953-4. Section 6 of the act allows for warrants for use of defacements of the flags governed by the act, and was included because of the recommendations that government bodies (including state bodies interacting with foreigners!) use national flags/ensigns defaced with their badge (see briefing note for 1960 committee meeting: barcode 1863037 start p14.) Recommendation 13 dealt with territories and read (can be found on p29 in file):

Regarding Australian territories other than the mainland and Tasmania, the committee suggests that generally the Australian National Flag should be used. Where, however, a separate administration has been set up for any territory, the Australian National Flag and the Australian Red Ensign defaced by the badge of the territory may be approved for use on its establishments and vessels in accordance with the normal usage.
My impression is that this policy was developed by the DET fairly early on, and it's possible they mistakenly believed that this was the normal in Papua. Having said that, it is a fact that the policy proposed and presumably adopted in 1907 was very similar. I don't think reimposing it would have been very drastic.

As Jeff says, actually adopted defaced ensigns were put on hold, presumably waiting for them to be done under the Flags Act. Once the act was passed, there was some question about whether any flags and ensigns adopted apart from it were valid, with the Attorney-General's Department concluding that while they were legally unaffected, they "should" be appointed or given warrants under the act. In considering applications for warrants for defaced flags from both government bodies (although not the Dept of Territories) and private groups such as the Boys' Brigade, the bureaucracy reached the point where in the 1960 meeting of the Departmental Committee on Flags it agreed to a non-defacement policy (apart from not changing some well established flags), to the extent of suggesting deleting references to defacement in the Act. (pp5-9).
Jonathan Dixon, 26 October 2012