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Herald gets it wrong on flag referendum

Written By: - Date published: 10:16 am, September 18th, 2015 - 50 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, john key, journalism, labour, making shit up, national - Tags: , ,

Red peak flag

I try to stay away from the flag debate because I think it is a distraction from important issues but …

This morning’s Herald editorial contains that many mistakes that I felt the urge to respond.  Here is a brief non comprehensive list of some fairly basic mistakes made by the anonymous editorial writer.

Labour’s leader has done himself no good this week with his refusal to back legislation putting “Red Peak” into the flag referendum.

Er no.  Little attempted to introduce a bill that would have added Red Peak into the shortlist of flags to be voted on.  It did require the vote to change to occur at the same time as the vote for the preferred choice.  National could have allowed it to be introduced and then sought to amend it but decided instead to veto its introduction.  Clearly the only party who could be accused of refusing to back legislation is National.  And Andrew Little offered to meet with John Key to discuss matters without any preconditions.  Key’s response that his willingness to meet “was predicated on my consistent position that the other elements of the flag consideration process remain unchanged” suggests that the one with the lack of flexibility is John Key himself.

The Prime Minister has not covered himself in glory, either, with his needless bid to rope Labour into his project. But at least John Key had a twinkle in his eye when he did an about-face on Red Peak, offering to add it to the options if all other parties (except New Zealand First) agreed. Andrew Little, caught by surprise, resorted to a counter-offer he knew could not be accepted.

Key actually did not offer to add Red Peak to the process.  He said only that “it could be an option” and used the phrases “not my intention” and  “[y]ou’d be asking me to jump in front of a process”.  Clearly no offer was made.

Labour would agree, [Little] said, if the first referendum included the question: “Do you want to change the flag, yes or no?”. This proposition became tiresome long ago. People cannot sensibly consider a change of this kind without knowing what the alternative would be. We probably would not have adopted MMP if the 1992 referendum had asked, do you want to change the electoral system? Several different systems were under public discussion at that time and all had their advocates.

But many who voted for MMP, or another new system, might have voted for the status quo in fear of a change to one of the systems they did not like. A referendum without a known alternative is biased to the status quo and those who call for one know it.

The flag change is not going well for Mr Key. The four options chosen by his Flag Consideration Panel for the first referendum do not appear to satisfy enough people and one of its rejected designs, Red Peak, has attracted a belated social media bandwagon. Mr Key, who wants a silver fern on the flag, was too quick last week to rule out a late inclusion of Red Peak in the referendum.

On this we can agree.

By Monday [John Key] had changed his mind, and made his offer to “other parties”. If Labour and the Greens wanted Red Peak he was happy to oblige.

No he did not.  See above.

With or without other parties’ support, Red Peak should be in the first ballot. The only question is whether it replaces one of the panel’s four or becomes a fifth option, requiring legislation. Two of the existing four appear to have no hope and the other two are almost the same. A fifth would be fun. Mr Little should lighten up and enjoy the political games.

Of course the bleedingly obvious comment is that National do not depend on Labour’s support to change the referendum and Red Peak could be included by simply amending the order in council.

Dear Herald can you blame Key for the fiasco the Flag referendum is becoming?  Labour has nothing to do with it.

50 comments on “Herald gets it wrong on flag referendum ”

  1. Sabine 1

    the whole process is a sham, is designed to be a sham, and Labour should have just simply stayed out of it. Its not theirs to fix. NZ has a choice of 5 flags already, three feathers, hypno flag and the old tried and true.

    • save NZ 1.1

      +100 – stay out of it Labour. It is a National party fiasco and Labour needs to concentrate on more serious issues. As for red peak, in my opinion – just as bad. The flag designs are all amateur efforts and without Labour or anyone else interfering National will have nothing else to do but own their own crony mistakes.

      They’re all bad! The process is bad. The designs are bad. Keep well away from trouble opposition. Let National own it!

    • Pat 1.2

      too late, they have already made the mistake…their advisors are brain dead

  2. GregJ 2

    Except of course that the whole thing is bullshit!. The National led government passed the original legislation 63-56. If National wants to change the legislation to include a 5th design they can – any time they like. Key is clearly just playing politics with it (as the whole process has been). It was a Government Bill – not a Private Members Bill and it was whipped so those National MPs who might have been against a flag change had to vote the party line.

    They could have chosen 4 designs (or even up to 9 designs) – included the current flag and then had one referendum where you simply rank the flags and the one that reaches over 50% is the flag.

    Or they could have started with a referendum on whether we want a flag at all.

    Key (I struggle to think it was actually the National Party in its entirety) just misread his sport (rugby?) loving supporters though – thinking that as they were happy waving Adidas branded All Black Silver fern flags at test matches they would also be happy to have the fern as a new National Flag to add to his political legacy along with his Knighthood. As I’ve said before he seems to have forgotten their inherent conservatism, their bordering on jingoistic nationalism, and the emotional attachment they have to the flag, war, ancestors, British colonial heritage, and anything that doesn’t embrace the more “dangerous” aspects of biculturalism.

    Labour (& other parties) should stick to it’s guns – Key & National created the mess – they can sort it out themselves and take the egg on the face. Wankers. 😡

    • Macro 2.1

      ^^^^ This

      Labour should just shut up about this whole sorry mess. Let National stew in it’s own juice.

      As for the “red peak” In my humble opinion its some thing I would never vote for. And for Labour to be seeming to support it is quite wrong in my opinion.

      • Chris 2.1.1

        Yes, regardless of all the to-ing and fro-ing and of precisely who said what, Labour appears to be supporting the process. That’s the one thing Labour should’ve avoided at all cost. But like everything else they fuck it up, even something as simple as this. Idiots.

        • Clemgeopin


          • Chris

            Thanks Mr/Ms “Labour can do no wrong” Clemgeopin. Proves my point.

            • Clemgeopin

              Labour has done nothing wrong here! It is up to Key and his government to decide to include or not to include the Red peak. It is entirely up to Key and nothing whatsoever to do with Labour or any other party! Key DOES NOT need Labour’s permission or support to include or not include the Red Peak!

              Key is just being cute and trying to put the blame on Labour for his own miserable mismanagement and dismal mess. You have been a silly sucker to fall for Key’s spin. Key did not bother to consult with Labour and the other opposition parties before he highhandedly started this whole flag change referendum stunt to begin with anyway!

              Here, read this to understand the issue better You are welcome!

              • Chris

                I agree with everything you say except that I’ve been sucked into Key’s spin. Labour’s mistake was to even entertain the possibility of adding a fifth flag. I know Little put a caveat on that but all the public hear is “Labour supports the three peaks” or whatever it’s called. Labour MPs are even publicly supporting the bloody petition to add the bloody thing to the final “choice”. Notice how the debate is now about which flag and not about no flag change? Labour’s done very little if nothing to help stop this from happening. It’s not that Labour hasn’t said that there needs to be a stage where people are first asked whether we want a change in the first place – Little has said precisely this. It’s the lack of clarity in Labour’s message that’s meant it hasn’t been heard. Key’s mob have been very clever to steer the discussion to a point where change is inevitable. Any talk of adding a fifth choice has helped Key regardless of Little’s caveat. And as for Labour MPs to be seen publicly supporting the petition? That just beggars fucking belief.

                • weston

                  prob for labour though is that changing the flag was apparently part of its own policy not that long ago so i guess they cant be seen to be too anti and once again they behind the 8 ball ?

                  • mickysavage

                    I support a flag change. Most people I know feel the same. Equating the desire for a flag change with support for the clusterfuck of a process and the idiot flag candidates this government has come up is a real stretch.

                  • Chris

                    Yes, and is precisely why Labour needed to be clear about the message it wanted people to hear.

    • tc 2.2

      Yup but yet again labour get sucked in because they play key at his game rather than creating their own narrative and getting stuck into his vanity project.

      Epic fail not seeing this as being gamed by the nats from the get go.

  3. Sacha 3

    By ‘gets it wrong’ you mean lies through their teeth. Professionalism has really left that newsroom.

  4. swordfish 4

    Their error on the MMP Referenda is beyond belief. There was a time when journos were expected to have, you know, at least a modicum of intellectual curiosity and general knowledge.

    • Agree entirely swordfish.

      It is especially woeful journalism given that it is such a central example in their prime argument against Little’s suggestion. It’s foot-shooting territory – and horrendously slack ‘journalism’.

      As if the clever thing to do is go with your twenty-odd year old memory of an event all in the full knowledge that you’re pushing a partisan barrow almost guaranteed to distort you memory – what could possibly go wrong?

      Where is the simple duty of care, prudence and self-discipline in what the editorialist is writing?

    • Tracey 4.2

      No longer am I surprised. No one actually checks articles for things like spelling and grammar at stuff or herald online before they are uploaded. I have noticed in recent weeks these kinds of errors seem to be on the rise.

  5. David Scott 5

    I hope you emailed your article to The Herald so they realise how sloppy they are.

  6. DH 6

    When the Heralds’ senior editorial writer is the person who wrote Key’s biography… well this is what we can expect from the ‘neutral’ press.

    Labour did let themselves get played though, it was plain stupidity to get involved in the red peak business. What on earth were they thinking?

    • maui 6.1

      The peak flag is part of the protest vote and they wanted to get in on that I’m guessing. A few days ago it was looking like a good move to back the flag that had the public groundswell and would be left off the ballot. Now the PM is being a snake again and driving this into deeper farcical territory, I think we all know who comes off worse in all this.

  7. dukeofurl 7

    They are about the 3rd place this week that have got it’ wrong about labour and red peak’

    You would have thought they were being fed the same false story from a single source !

    Of course that is how it DOES HAPPEN. Keys beehive office sends out its attack lines, hardly any truth to them and they are swallowed hook line and sinker.

    That they continue to get all tangled up over what questions were asked in MMP referendum, suggest too they didnt get this info from ‘original sources’ but were expecting the political lines fed to them to be correct. Egg on face !

  8. DoublePlusGood 8

    Flags are a symbol. If you want to use a specific flag, get out there and use it. If enough people use a particular flag, it could get adopted as the flag of the country because it would effectively be so anyway.

    • infused 8.1

      Like the silver fern eh…

      • Tracey 8.1.1

        and yet, the polls just aren’t reflecting its alleged widespread popularity, and it didn’t make the final 4… cos the one you speak of is white on a black background

  9. Clemgeopin 9

    Now that the people HAVE seen all the four or all the five flags with Red Peak, it is logical, meaningful and appropriate to include the ‘Yes/No’ question first in the first referendum regarding ‘wish to change’ or ‘do not wish to change’. Key’s argument that people need to know what ‘they wish to change to’ does not hold good anymore as the alternatives are already known! I think Labour’s proposal is a fair one and makes much better sense than Key’s stand.

    The biggest mistake that Key made in the first place was that he unilaterally decided to start this flag change stunt without first seeing, through media polls, if there was a wide (about 60%) support for the proposal.

    He should have realised at the very start that changing of a nation’s flag is not just a Prime Minister’s ego trip or just a National party issue. It is a serious issue affecting every one in the country. Key should have shown some respect to the process and dealt with it as a cross party issue to generate broad support. He did not do that. Instead, he played dirty politics and arrogantly went about it himself and set up a dodgy panel that gave a dodgy set of ‘choice’ to reflect Key’s preference.

    The entire manipulated process has been a stunt and a disgrace. All it has achieved is, it has divided the country and has made people angry!

    The best thing to do now is to stop the process for now and revisit it again sometime in the future if and when the media polls, consistently indicate a wide, (say 60%), support for change.

    • Anne 9.1

      The biggest mistake that Key made in the first place was that he unilaterally decided to start this flag change stunt without first seeing, through media polls, if there was a wide (about 60%) support for the proposal.

      It wasn’t a mistake. He did it the way he did because he knew there was minority support only for a flag change. He and his cronies started planning this flag charade to counter third term voter- blues (distraction techniques) probably as early as the start of their second term in office.

  10. save NZ 10

    A riddle for Labour

    A dog does 4 shits outside someones house. Another dog comes along should he,

    a) Do a smaller shit so that he can fit in.
    b) Hang around the mess so he can be blamed for it.
    c) Do a smaller shit and hang around so he can be blamed for it and has contributed to it in a smaller way.
    d) Get the F out of there and leave the bigger shitting dog to clean up the mess.

  11. Ovid 11

    The Electoral Commission’s guidance on the 1992 referendum can be viewed at http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/ephemera/35682/1992-indicative-referendum-on-the-electoral-system

  12. Trey 12

    When you wake up to the fact that your paper is Tory. Just remember, there are two sides to every story. (It Says Here, Billy Bragg)

  13. MJ 13

    “This proposition became tiresome long ago. People cannot sensibly consider a change of this kind without knowing what the alternative would be.”

    This argument is a bad one. Contrary to opinion, adding the current flag as a 5th option does not discount being able to choose a different flag, and whoever thought it mattered isn’t paying attention.

  14. Thinker 14

    Why do we need two referenda, anyway?

    Why not lump the current flag in with the 4 alternatives and let people vote for the one they want?

    For a government bent on efficiency and economy, it seems to me to make more sense.

  15. Nick 15

    I saw a trademe poll and overwhelming vote to keep the current flag 60% the other options not in double digits

    • Clemgeopin 15.1

      That is actually the sad part of Key’s manipulated mess. Even people who would normally have preferred a change are now overwhelmingly opposing this referendum because it has been turned into a partisan dirty process by Key.

  16. Lauren 16

    John Key by putting the Labour party and Andrew Little on the chopping block.
    Could this be a case of political propaganda, considering the article was submitted by a writer who remained anonymous? Did the Herald mean to get it wrong? Not making accusations just making observations based on recent occurrences with NZ media. TV3 for example with the publics only political watchdog (John Campbell) being axed from our screens.

    “Of course the bleedingly obvious comment is that National do not depend on Labour’s support to change the referendum and Red Peak could be included by simply amending the order in council.”

    If this is the case then why has Labour been dragged into Nationals mess? this just shows that media censorship is prominent in NZ’s political landscape and the involvement of Labour in this particular issue about adding the Red Peak to the referendum may have just been a political tactic in order to give National a rest from taking the flack for this whole flag debate.

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