Good on Winston Peters for taking such a firm stand against John Key’s vain and wasteful ambition to change our flag. Yesterday Peters wrote a stirring editorial in the Otago Daily Times. I’ve reprinted the entire article below but if you prefer to read it in the Otago Daily Times, its here.
“Two days before the country gathered to solemnly mark the centennial of the Gallipoli landings, submissions on the Flag Referendum Bill closed. New Zealand First has refused to join the multi-party committee behind this Bill and we share the Returned and Services’ Association’s view on this very important issue.
We are unequivocally against any flag change and believe the two referendums represent a waste of taxpayers’ money when so many worthy causes remain unsupported.
Over the next few years, a drumbeat of significant historical commemorations will occur. August 8 marks the centenary of Chunuk Bair, Major Ion Brown’s painting of which can be seen at Parliament. Significantly, this painting is located near to the New Zealand flag retrieved from the Twin Towers by New York City police officers.
On September 15 will fall the Battle of Britain’s 75th commemoration, an event likely to overlap with advertising for the first of the flag referendums. Our solution is simple and effective.
That first referendum should simply ask voters this: ”Do you want to change New Zealand’s flag? Yes or No?”
Unless National Party backbench MPs grasp the critical issues here, then, in April 2016, we are expected to vote on a second referendum because voters were denied the democratic choice, ”Do you want to change New Zealand’s flag? Yes or No?” If the people answer ”No”, a second referendum does not arise.
Yet 2016 also marks the centenaries of the Somme and Jutland, and Crete’s 75th commemoration. And in 2017, our present flag should fly over our centennial of Passchendaele and the 75th commemoration of the Battle of El Alamein.
This pet project means significant historical and sporting events will need airbrushing to explain to future generations what that flag around Olympians and sporting stars was. It includes the outstanding picture of the late Sir Peter Blake holding aloft the America’s Cup with the New Zealand flag behind him.
This flag project is being imposed and does not reflect public opinion. In 2004, the NZ Flag.com Trust failed with its citizens-initiated referendum petition when only 100,000 people signed it, well short of the 270,000 signatures needed.
Recent opinion polls show growing support for the current flag, almost proportionate to the Prime Minister’s advocacy for change. Last February, a One News-Colmar Brunton poll found 72% support for the flag as it is.
In February 2015, only 16% of Campbell Live viewers backed a new flag, with the balance emphatically saying no.
Instead of two referendums costing $26 million, doesn’t it make common sense to use that money to reinstate the Gisborne-Napier rail line, double-lane any number of one-way bridges in Northland or fund most of the first year of three free GP visits for over 65s?
My Bill adding this feature to the gold card is before Parliament in May. But $26 million is, sadly, only the beginning.
New flags across government may cost $2 million to $3 million but that’s chicken feed compared to modifying the New Zealand coat of arms on every official document and every government building, here or abroad. The coat of arms on the Supreme Court cost about $30,000 and features the current flag.
In 2013, poor communication regarding a ”brand change” from the NZFSA to the Ministry for Primary Industries held up more than 1600 containers of meat at the Chinese border. In March 2013, similar confusion affected apple exports to Russia. Extend this confusion to passports and you cannot bat this away with the trite excuse of a ”transition period”.
This is an uncosted and ill thought-out debacle in waiting.
It also opens a Pandora’s box whereby future prime ministers will look to impart their personal design aesthetic on to our national symbols.
Critics of the Union Flag reflect a reverse cultural cringe, forgetting that it represents our country’s foundation in every sense of that word. The blue background of our flag represents the ocean around us, while the Southern Cross represents where we are.
Our flag is as relevant in 2015 as it was when Richard Seddon’s Liberal Government selected it. Yes, our flag does look a lot like the Australian flag. However, they filched our design and they should change their flag to avoid confusion. That’s usually the way it goes in copyright and patent law.
There is so little philosophical strength underpinning this push for a referendum that the ”silver fern on a black background”, Mr Key’s first preference, was ditched after being parodied on US television as similar to Isis.
This surely shows how vacuous the drive behind this uncalled-for change is.”