The opportunity to change, or not

14/08/2015

Parliament has voted to give us the opportunity to change our flag, or not:

New Zealanders will have their say in choosing the New Zealand flag after legislation enabling two postal referendums was endorsed by Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says.

“The passing of the New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill, with the support of four Parliamentary parties, will secure New Zealanders their first opportunity ever to vote on the flag that best represents them and our country,” Mr English said.

Ah the hypocrisy of Labour which went in to the election saying it would give us the chance to change the flag, and do so through two referendums exactly as enacted, but voted against the legislation.

The first postal referendum is planned to take place between 20 November and 11 December and will empower voters with the opportunity to rank four alternative designs.

The most-preferred design from that first referendum will then go to a second binding referendum in March, where voters will democratically choose between the status quo and the most preferred alternative flag.

Public discussion on the merits of the flags on the longlist is welcome and appears to be vigorous.

The Electoral Commission is well-advanced in its preparations for the referendums, Mr English said.

Prime Minister John Key puts the case for changing the New Zealand Flag:

You can also listen to him put the case for change to Simon Barnett and Gary McCormick here.

There’s some information on flags of the world here.

And John Lapsley also puts in the case for change in the present flag speaks of another time, country:

I feel quite ill when conscience demands I write a sentence of unqualified praise for our political masters.

But helped by a gumboot shiraz and a Panadol, we man up, and get on with it. Here goes:Despite popular thought to the contrary, the Government has made a first rate job of planning the new flag referendum.

And if you believe it’s wasted $25million boring the populace, you’ll soon be proved spectacularly wrong.

True, the first months of the Flag Consideration Project have been as dull as its name. But that was to be expected while they did the dreary spade work of research and consultation. Things don’t get interesting until we set eyes on the possible new flags.

That’s now about to happen. This month the project’s panel of luminaries releases its ”long list” of 50 plus flags winnowed from 10,000 odd entries. (So much for alleged disinterest.)

After a month’s public palaver, they produce a four flag shortlist. Before Christmas the nation will vote to choose one that runs against the present flag in a March referendum.

Come the new year, you won’t escape the pub or the proctologists’ ball without a flag argument. It will be the media’s subject du jour. Talkback jocks will jabber. There will be no place to hide, as we enjoy democracy at its most glorious.

I was listening to talkback on Tuesday, the day after the long-list was announced, and the flag was the major topic.

Let me nail my colours to the mast. I’m for a new flag. I respect our present one, but it speaks of another country – the very different New Zealand of the past. It symbolises origins we’ve grown beyond.

The blue Southern Cross flag with its dominating Union Jack, is our third. We were just a British colony when it was introduced in 1902, but soon to become (dear God) a ”dominion” – from the Latin ”Dominium”, meaning a country subject to another’s ruler.

We may find the term insulting, but our great grandparents didn’t. In 1902, nearly half had wet their first nappy in the British Isles. (Today’s UK born figure is just 4%.) I recall my own grandparents’ wistful immigrant speak about ”mother country” and ”home”.

My mother, a third generation New Zealander who had never been further than Australia, also spoke of Britain as home in the 1960s, though if I recall correctly not after she’d been there in the 1970s.

Until the 1950s, much of our art and literature was obsessed with a great puzzle – what it really meant to be a New Zealander.

Mired in culture cringe, and in awe of anything London, a Union Jacked flag seemed properly parental to a country whose nationhood was still in short pants.

That parent turfed us out of home in 1973 when it joined the European Economic Community, and left us high and dry. Yet our old master’s insignia still sits proud – top left on our flag.

We hear three main arguments for keeping this flag.

It’s claimed change would dishonour servicemen who died fighting for the flag. This is nonsensical – the Kiwis we honour on Anzac Day died serving their country. I doubt the flag crossed their minds.

Some Maori fought under the Union Jack in the land wars, some fought against people fighting under it.

The 1900 medal commemorating the Boer War shows a version of the United Tribes’ flag and New Zealanders fought under the Union Jack in World War I.

It is argued that removing the Union Jack somehow disrespects the country’s Queen. Well, actually, it doesn’t, and the Queen has her own distinctive Royal Standard. The Union flag is her country’s banner.

I hadn’t heard that argument but most other Commonwealth countries have changed their flag without in any way disrespecting the monarch.

The third argument for the status quo is that the flag is historic. That’s true, but also the core of the problem. The flag tells the world the British part of our history remains paramount to us today.

And this is a flag adopted when the colony still excluded Maori from its main census count – a flag which ignored and obliquely insulted our Polynesian past. Yes, it’s that far out of touch.

Fiji is about to remove the Union Jack from its flag, leaving only three of the 49 self governing Commonwealth countries that keep it – us, Australia and those parts of Tuvalu which remain above water. It’s right to value the British part of New Zealand’s heritage.

But it’s wrong that in 2015 we keep a different, distant, country’s flag as the most eye catching feature of our own.

This denigrates us, and it does it very directly. Our country has built its own identity. It’s time our flag reflected it.

I won’t definitely commit to voting for change until I know which of the new designs I’d be voting for.

But I am open to the idea of changing our current flag which recognises only part of our past:

 The Union Jack in the top left-hand corner of the Flag recognises New Zealand’s historical foundations as a former British colony and dominion.

And was designed in Australia to feature Crux Australis (the Southern Cross) by a man who’d never set foot in New Zealand, for a former Queensland governor who was just passing through.

I’d prefer one which is recognisably ours, that may or may not acknowledge the past, and does reflect New Zealand now and where we want to go.

And I am excited about the idea of a flag that is chosen by us.

How many other governments have trusted their people to choose their own flag or vote against change which will be an option in the second referendum?


Poverty doesn’t cause abuse

15/08/2013

The first topic of discussion on Afternoon’s Panel on Tuesday was Paula Bennett’s proposals for countering the scourge of child abuse.

One of the panelists, Gary McCormick, asserted that the root cause of the problem was poverty (starting at about 9:01).

Host Jim Mora said there was disagreement about the extent to which poverty is related to child abuse.

McCormick disagreed.

Guest Anthea Simcock from Child Matters then came on (about 12 minutes) and said while poverty was related to the issues it was not the primary cause and child abuse wouldn’t be fixed by fixing poverty alone.

McCormick came back in (13:56) and told her she was wrong and poverty was the cause of the problems.

She countered that by saying it was a co-existing factor but not a causal one.

He came back and eventually said he refused to believe what she was saying.

This is a prime example of someone not letting the facts getting in the way of their convictions and he’s not the only one.

Lindsay Mitchell blogs:

John Minto says that Labour needs “a kick up the backside” for not pushing the message that poverty is the “key factor” behind child abuse.

He says there are NEVER any excuses for child abuse but there are REASONS behind it.

Unfortunately reasons becomes excuses very easily.

Can I take you back to just a couple of things that people like John Minto ignore.

Child abuse rates are not high amongst all groups with high poverty rates. In fact they are lower amongst poor Asians.

Household incomes of Maori and Pacific families are growing faster than the median, yet the rate of Maori child abuse is not declining. . .

Poverty is a problem but a lot of very poor people love and care for their children and some who aren’t poor abuse them.

The problems of poverty and child abuse both need to be addressed but it is wrong to assert that solving the former will solve the latter.


Shadbolt and McCormick to the rescue

06/04/2009

Tim Shadbolt and Gary McCormick aren’t usually regarded as heroes but  they didn’t hesitate to help when they came across a potentially fatal accident.

The Southland Times has the story, one of the morals of which could be: speak softly and carry a hunting knife.


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