Getting our flag off a weetbix box

I cannot believe that I am thinking about voting to keep our current flag. It is a flag that I have loathed for probably 30 years. Its similarity to the Australian flag reminds me of when New Zealand was ruled by New South Wales, and its imagery is redolent with smug colonial arrogance. It reinforces a constitutional fiction – that somehow the sovereignty of New Zealand resides in the Queen, and that she is a font of justice and honour.

But it is possible that the alternatives are worse.

Yesterday the Flag Consideration Panel released its shortlist of four possible options. The first round of voting will decide which of these is the favorite. The winner will then go up against the current flag in the second round of voting. Once you realise that the shortlist was approved by the Cabinet, it all starts to make sense. John Key’s personal favorite is represented twice, in slightly different colour combinations, to make sure that it has double the chance of being chosen. Actually, that design is the only one to have any colour at all. The other two are in monochrome, just in case you didn’t understand which was the right answer.

The prospect of ending up with a flag that looks like it was cut out of a weetbix box seems to have burned off a fair chunk of the dwindling support for a flag change. I have to admit to being highly confused about the Government’s motives in this whole debacle. For people who claim to want to change the flag, they seem to have pretty much destroyed most of the majority support that once existed for doing that. A lot of that would have been on the left and green spectrums I suppose, but I’m sure they must have also irritated a fair chunk of conservative National voters in the process, by even suggesting a change. Amusingly, the process has been so badly designed that they now look likely to lose the vote. Is it too conspiritorial to think they did it to destroy any prospect of a flag change for the next few decades?

I guess so.

Not of course as conspiritorial as the bizarre theory being spread around Facebook, claiming that removing the union jack from our flag will destroy the DUE AUTHORITY of the Crown (I know, I know, its a made-up term) and nullify the Treaty of Waitangi. Apparently this is all necessary so we can sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Why New Zealand would be the only country that needs a flag change to sign a trade deal is beyond me, never mind how the authority of the British Crown or the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi could rely on a flag adopted in 1902.

So what then is the Prime Minister’s motivation? I suspect that its a bit of an ego thing. New Zealand has been orienting away from Europe and towards Asia ever since Britain joined the Eureopean Community and basically told us to get lost, economically speaking. Sooner or later we are going to become an republic and change the flag, not necessarily in that order. It must be a bit of a buzz to be the guy to do it, and I am sure Key holds no great affection for Britain, the Royals or tradition, except where it provides an opportunity for a good selfie.

Actually the best argument against changing the flag that I have read is because it SHOULD be in that order. Removing the symbol of British sovereignty, the argument goes, before we have actually brought our sovereignty home is just shallow tokenism. We should change the flag when we do something constitutionally significant enough to warrant it. I have some sympathy with that idea.

But more than that, I am deeply irritated by not having the chance to vote for anything even close to something I’d want to see fly as New Zealand’s flag. I can happily accept losing a vote to the preferences of my fellow citizens. I do not accept being denied a decent choice by a panel of Government cronies. I am reluctantly thinking that I will vote for the koru in the first round and then vote to keep the current flag in the second round, in the hope that we get another crack at it in a few decades. That’s when I am hoping that we finally start getting serious about ditching the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha family.

Ultimately the whole affair, like the flag choices we have been allowed to choose between, lacks imagination. It should all have been done with on-line voting. Every registered voter could have been provided a log-in to an STV voting website, and allowed to rank as many of the flags on the long-list of 40 (plus the current flag) as they wanted. Voting through public access terminals in libraries and through smart phones at wi-fi hotspots could be made available for those without internet access at home. This would have been highly democratic and also considerably cheaper. It would have given us a flag with majority support. It would have been quick and easy. Finally it would have been a great opportunity to pilot some digital democracy, and start to bring our voting systems into the 21st century.

But then going by past events, I guess that enhancing democracy is not something that interests this Government.

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18 thoughts on “Getting our flag off a weetbix box

  1. The Union Jack represents a few hundred years of the English version of white supremacy, this should be reason enough to end our association with that symbol.
    Aside from that I don’t really care too much what the new flag looks like. Changing a new flag to something more appropriate would be easier than changing the current flag in the face of National Party opposition.
    I don’t have a very high opinion of John Key – I’m a paid up member of the Mana Movement -, but this anti-Key campaign being run on the left in the guise of an anti-change the flag campaign is beginning to look petty and insincere.

    We are not Brits or Australians, we are too closely associated with them through that flag.

    Change the flag.

    • Elrae says:

      Exactly my thoughts… forget who is giving us the opportunity to change, just grasp the opportunity.. Change the flag!

    • I agree Andrew that the worst reason to oppose a flag change is because John Key is doing it.

    • Danny boy says:

      It’s not about changing the flag, this is about doing away with our connection to the Crown and to many that’s not such a bad idea but remember, most of our government agencies are institutions of the Crown so if they were lost we would look very much like America, did you see John Key on the News a couple of weeks ago declaring quite confidently “privatisation is here to stay” after the crap that went on with Serco? What he meant was, no welfare state, privately run prisons, no ACC, or public funded hospitals therefore, medical bills would go through the roof, child welfare would also be privatised, no government housing, the list goes on and if you are Maori you can forget about the Treaty of Waitangi. This is very much something you can attribute to John Key who from day one has treated the governing of this country as one would his own business. He has never had the best interests of the people on his mind, it’s a business to him. So you might be thinking, what’s the flag got to do with this? An ant will tell you “to eat an elephant, you take one bite at a time”
      First step, Drop the flag. Second step, get the TPPA up and running, third step, privatisation, fourth step, break away from British rule, become a Republic, fifth step, go talk to an American and ask why there are so many homeless, penniless people wandering aimlessly around their streets.

      There is a lot to be afraid of should the first step toward decolonisation be initiated.

      If you think the property market in Auckland is rediculous, watch what happens to the rest of the country after we become a republic.

      • richdrich says:

        The word “Crown” is just a legal term for the NZ state (acting as a legal person, technically). In Australia it’s the Commonwealth, in ancient Rome it was SPQR (Senate and People Of Rome).

        We could replace it with “Government and People of Aotearoa” and it would have the same effect.

        It has nothing to do with Britain or the Royal Family. The monarch and the UK government have as much input into the governance of NZ as the Pope or the Chief Rabbi, e.g. none at all.

        British monarchs gave up most active involvement in politics in the 1830s, just before NZ colonisation. The UK government disclaimed involvement in our politics in 1931, although it took another 16 years before this sunk in at an NZ legal level.

      • I agree with most of that, except I am not sure it is true that the British monarchs gave up active involvement in British politics. The Queen meets the British PM every week and has since Churchill apparently. I suspect she is just protecting her business interests.

  2. Elizabeth Marshall says:

    I agree with you Mr Tanczos. The enhancement of democracy is not on this government’s agenda. This whole flag debacle has been touted as a fait accompli by Key and his cohorts.The flag choices we have been “given” are awful, and I too will be voting for the retention of the old flag. I’m hoping that this huge costly endeavour will prove to Key that the country does not at this stage want things changed, least of all for the T-shirt-type designs that are our “choice.”

  3. Alan says:

    Key’s affection for royalty will continue until he gets that knighthood he wants for his CV and ego album.

  4. Glenngus says:

    Too true, thank you. I believe many are feeling the same way, would like to see a flag change BUT!!! I am thinking of not voting at all. I heard a commentator say that if the turn out is too low on first vote they might bail on the whole thing.

  5. graham says:

    Jk is using the flag issue as a distraction while they sign up to the tppa…every one is looking at the flag issues and the tppa is not being in the media.many people are so focused on the flag that they are not interested in the more important tppa deal.jk chose the black and white silver fern design as his original he is using the All Blacks as our “National” team to unite the country…labour voted to support the extended bar hours for the rwc games…proving that the Game is more important than any other issues…so you are right about the Waitangi treaty being signed before we had the present flag…i would have to go with red white and blue weetbix box colours flag or black with southern cross..the koru is great but only when the wind is blowing.

  6. Jon P says:

    A simple black flag, a flag that negates all flags. I’d vote for that. 😉

  7. Tane says:

    You can re-brand the flag, you can re-brand the treaty, you can re-brand ANZAC day, you can even re-brand the government, but nothing will have changed. What we really need to do is change the people in power.

  8. “I have to admit to being highly confused about the Government’s motives in this whole debacle. For people who claim to want to change the flag, they seem to have pretty much destroyed most of the majority support that once existed for doing that. A lot of that would have been on the left and green spectrums I suppose, but I’m sure they must have also irritated a fair chunk of conservative National voters in the process, by even suggesting a change. Amusingly, the process has been so badly designed that they now look likely to lose the vote. Is it too conspiritorial to think they did it to destroy any prospect of a flag change for the next few decades?”

    I have suspected this for MONTHS! The very first time I suggested it, in response to one of the other conspiracy theories, I was joking. But the more I think about it, the more strongly I suspect that this is indeed the case.

    Support for flag change has always been from the left. What’s the best way to turn the left against it? For a right wing PM to say he’s for it, of course!

    If this referendum had happened under the last Labour government, we would all be used to our nice new flag by now. Maybe a Lockwood design, maybe not, but definitely one without the Union cocking Jack on it.

    I’m still going to vote for change, partly because I quite like Kyle Lockwood’s designs, but mostly because the one thing I really give a toss about is the absence of the Union Jack on our flag. I will therefore vote for anything that doesn’t have it, even if it does nothing for me aesthetically, because I don’t need to see a great work of art on top of the flagpoles. I just want to see a New Zealand flag designed for New Zealand by a New Zealander. That’s more important to me than whether I actually personally like the design.

  9. jaysenmagan says:

    Good morning 🙂
    Personally I like John Key and in my opinion overall he is doing a good job for us, however I do not believe the process to change the flag has been conducted at the right time in our countries young life and I believe the change management process is also somewhat lacking in professionalism.
    Do I feel it is being used as a smokescreen ? Yes
    Are smokescreens government tactics use by all parties ? Yes
    Am I going to vote for change ? No
    Do you feel a flag change will impact negatively on a large number of internationally trading New Zealand companies whom have aligned there branding and colours to the existing flag and will the vast amounts of resource spent to realign with a flag change impact on them financially and at the sametime mean senior management is distracted from more strategic objectives during costly brand realignment projects ? Yes
    In your opinion could this end up being a hospital pass to our international business community and subsequently negatively impact our domestic economy ? Yes

  10. JOHN RU ALMOND says:

    knows that although a cat may change its spots this merely means we may have to rethink the way to skin it.

  11. Ian Gregson says:

    donkey’s ego is boundless, but this is a false flag designed to distract the sheeple from treason like the TPPA

  12. You really need a televised debate with the designer or proponents of certain flags arguing for them (“Ladies and gentlemen, defend your flags …”), so people are aware of all the issues. This debate series of debate would then need to be put on Youtube for some time for the public to digest the argument. And an essential part of any modern democratic process is a Twitter war. An electronic referendum can take place after a Twitter armistice. Then the NZ population will be sufficiently well informed to choose the “Red Peak” flag , which is obviously and clearly and best design. Check it out.

  13. Anguli Julie says:

    Nandor, it is really quite simple. John Key wants to divert attention away from the TPPA, and stirring up dissent about our flag is a really effective way to do that. So let’s stop going on about the flag, and start talking about what really matters, which is the TPPA, because if we don’t stop him signing it, democracy and sovereignty are over anyway and what colour piece of cloth represents us as a nation is irrelevant.

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