Digging in – Stale Mates Worsen Flag Mess

Gareth MorganTreaty

The debacle over the incompetence of the Flag Consideration Panel is spurring ever-growing ramifications for the politicians. The latest demonstration of petty mindedness from a political quarter comes from Andrew Little who, when faced with the question of whether Labour would support the government in adding a fifth entry to the first referendum, couldn’t resist petty point scoring.

He stated he’d would support a fifth flag, but only if the PM moved the question about whether New Zealanders want a flag change to the first referendum. That’s the response of a political brat, rather than someone concerned with getting the outcome New Zealanders want.

When the flag consideration process was first announced, I remember publishing stuff on why a flag change would be beneficial. The orchestrated response from the media – without exception – was that 88% of New Zealanders didn’t want change and hence I should naff off. No research underpinned that reaction, it was purely a cantankerous, talkback-type allergy to an idea.

Now look at it. Latest polls suggest 50% are open to change – so long as real choice is provided. That’s what educative processes do – and once the public gets full information it is incredibly rational. As the public learns more about this, the polls will continue to move – they are certainly not stable yet. It’s this process that Andrew Little – a supporter of change – now seeks to shut down for political gain. He doesn’t care if the public doesn’t get to make an informed decision, he’d rather have the political brownie points from being the person that made the government change the process.

This is just the latest in a series of gaffs around the flag change consideration. John Key of course has made a series of his own too long to list here, but I’ll mention two – his most severe and his latest. His most severe being openly seeking to influence the so-called independent panel days before the public announcement of the final four, by harping on why the silver fern motif was also ideal for the national flag – something no vexillologist will verify. His latest is to tell us he “more than happy to add Red Peak to the ballot paper” but Labour has to stop playing politics.

What? They’re as bad as each other – Key can easily remove one of the “nanny” designs from Kyle Lockwood and have Red Flag instead. What a couple of clowns.

Chief amongst this comedy of incompetence we shouldn’t forget though, has been the panel itself which, despite pretending it was wanting New Zealanders to tell them what we stood for, so it could ensure its flag recommendations reflected our views, comes up with 3 ferns and part of a fern. No effective choice at all. What an utter waste of money they’ve proved to be and worse, an affront to the collective intelligence of the public. To think that we would lamely accept a collection of John Key’s favourite fern patterns was naïve in the extreme. The reputation of the panel that in effect said we could have “any colour as long as it’s black”, will go down in history just like another of the Ford Company’s gaffes – the Edsel – a car design that made the public puke.

To be told that we cannot have a genuine choice in the first referendum is the crime here. It is an unmitigated insult to the intelligence of the public and is why the politicians need to intervene in the public interest, not try to score cheap points. Whether that’s by adding a fifth option or replacing one of the four is semantics as far as the public is concerned. Doing nothing though means the insult from John Key and the sychophantic flag consideration panel remains and the government can expect a strong reaction – especially in the second referendum via a greater vote for no change than would otherwise be. That will make John Key’s $26m exercise for nothing his lasting legacy – something of course Andrew Little would cherish.

Dick Frizzell said it best – “They’re so f.. tragic I can’t believe it, I’m sure Kyle [Lockwood, designer of the two fern flags] is a lovely boy but that is such an aunty flag, such a nanny flag”.

Digging in – Stale Mates Worsen Flag Mess was last modified: December 15th, 2015 by Gareth Morgan
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Gareth Morgan

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Gareth Morgan is a New Zealand economist and commentator on public policy who in previous lives has been in business as an economic consultant, funds manager, and professional company director. He is also a motorcycle adventurer and philanthropist. Gareth and his wife Joanne have a charitable foundation, the Morgan Foundation, which has three main stands of philanthropic endeavour – public interest research, conservation and social investment.