Sir Brian Lochore, a member of the Flag Consideration Panel is urging New Zealanders to keep open minds:
. . . Sir Brian would not say what his personal view was, but pointed to changes in flags across the Commonwealth during the past 50 years. Of the 54 Commonwealth members, 45 no longer had a Union Jack on their flag. “A lot of countries have changed. So I guess if I have a view I would like New Zealanders to open their mind and see what’s there, and then clearly vote how they feel. Because we haven’t ever had a chance at deciding on our flag, here is an opportunity for New Zealanders to have a look. That’s all I ask. If it goes back to the status quo, so be it.” . . .
The process has started and it won’t be stopped.
The least we can do, whatever our views on the flag and the process being undertaken to determine whether or not it’s changed, is to keep an open mind.
This shows the flags of some the of the Commonwealth countries which have changed their flags and some which haven’t:
The panel is doing a road show to encourage people to participate in the process. the schedule is here.
The select committee has started hearing submissions on the flag change process and Claire Trevett says the real danger to the process is politics.
. . . This is where Labour comes in, apparently determined to sabotage the process. Labour is a relatively pro-republic party in which most MPs favour a change of flag. Despite that, it has set about political point-scoring, even if doing so undermines the very process that might result in that flag change.
Their primary objection is the order of the questions in the referendums. They argue New Zealanders should first be asked whether they want a change – and have a second referendum only if the majority want change.
Labour claims it is an effort to save money. What codswallop. Labour’s objections are an effort to rain on the Prime Minister’s parade and get headlines.
The Ministry of Justice advised against putting the change question first. That was because for many people not entrenched in either camp, the final decision will depend on what the alternative is.
Had the Government gone against that advice, Labour would probably now be accusing it of penny pinching over a matter of national identity. Labour’s approach is rather selfish and short-sighted and if it has the effect of tainting the entire process, the party might rue it.
It could well save $9 million to $13 million in the costs of a second referendum. But that short-term saving would come at a bigger cost in the long term. Once this is over, it will be a long time before anyone dares to raise the issue again.
Labour has also taken to feeding the perception that it is a “vanity project” for John Key. This primarily comes down to sour grapes. Labour wants a new flag. But they don’t want Key to be the one whose name is linked to it. They want it for themselves.
The government has done all it can to ensure this isn’t party political and involve all parties in the process. But Labour’s burning desire to score points against the Prime Minister John Key is blinding them to that.
Questioning referendums is one thing, but trying to influence people’s votes out of puerile political spite is a different matter. It may be true that Key is keen on a legacy, but it should be irrelevant. The referendums are on the flag, not on the political parties or personalities.
In reality, Key has a better chance of securing the change than Labour would. Key is a monarchist so there is far less suspicion about his longer-term motives. It is not being seen as the thin end of the wedge to republicanism. Labour’s current leader, Andrew Little, favours a flag change as part of a wider move towards a republic. Yet NZ is likely to inch towards republicanism rather than gallop. . .
The referendums are a treacherous enough process. The officials’ advice also pointed to the risk of “tactical voting”, in which those opposed to change vote for the least appealing option – so the current flag had a better chance of winning.
The referendum process is now before a select committee and the Flag Consideration Panel has started its work of consulting about an alternative. This is the first chance New Zealanders have had to vote on the flag. The politicians would do New Zealand a favour by simply shutting up and letting the public get on with it for themselves.
The chances of change are compromised by politics because not just Labour but the left in general will vote against change to spite the PM. Add them to those who genuinely prefer the status quo and it will be hard to get a majority for change.
That is a pity.
Whether the flag changes or not, the one we have at the end of the process will be New Zealand’s long after most who vote in the referendum are dead.
Whether that is the flag we have or a new one, people should vote with open minds for what they think is best not for political point scoring.