How would Mallard know what people want?

In a column at Stuff Trevor Mallard talks as if he knows “what we want”, but he doesn’t even seem to know what he wants, apart from dissing an opponent.

Trevor Mallard: Flag issue about PM’s ego, not what Kiwis want

When it comes to a brand spanking new flag, I started the parliamentary process with an open mind.

I don’t remember that bit. He must have closed his mind quite quickly.

The time for change will come I thought. But the middle of the commemoration of World War 1 is not the time.

if you don’t want something to happen you can think of many reasons why now isn’t a good time.

John Key has written that seeing the silver fern at the Bledisloe Cup  game confirmed to him that New Zealand needs a new flag. I watched that game, too.

But something else occurred to me looking around the packed stadium of 50,000 people: you would need three stadia that size to hold all the people who are out of work under National.

That’s why so many New Zealanders are angry about Mr Key’s flag project. There are a lot of serious issues facing New Zealand but the Prime Minister is fiddling about with the flag like he has nothing else to do.

This multi stadia vision of Mallard’s must be quite new. When he was in the Labour Cabinet his responsibilities included Minister for Sport and Recreation, Minister for the America’s Cup and later Associate Minister of Finance. Financie and sporting events must have been a different priority then.

There are 148,000 people unemployed in New Zealand right now, up 50,000 under National. There are 305,000 kids in poverty, up 45,000 under National. Net Government debt is at a record level, up by $58 billion under National. Homeownership is at its lowest level in 60 years.

$26m wouldn’t solve those problems, but it could make a start. Instead, Mr Key is flushing it away on a referendum that Kiwis have clearly said they don’t want.

Mr Key wrote “in a sense, the people have already spoken”.

He’s right: Kiwis have spoken. In every forum and in the media, the public opposition to a new flag and the referendum is overwhelming. The fact that fewer than 700 people showed up to the Flag Commission’s multi-million dollar roadshow speaks volumes.

The polls are stark – 70% of us don’t want change. Just 25% do.

That’s just one poll, so it’s very misleading quoting that. There are thirteen polls cited here, with a range of results. The three option polls show minorities against change in all three polls conducted last year.

The vast majority of over ten thousand flag design submissions were serious suggestions, suggesting significant interest from Kiwis.

It’s as plain as day that the second referendum will vote to keep the current flag.

It’s as plain as day that Mallard doesn’t know what he is talking about – or is deliberately promoting false impressions.

It’s impossible for anyone to know what the result of the second referendum will be.

The point of a flag referendum is to ask the people if they want change. The clear answer is that they don’t.  Not only do New Zealanders not want change, they don’t want $26m of taxpayers’ money spent on a vote.

No, the point of the two referendums is to ask if people want change. Grumpy old politicians opposing change under a Prime Minister they don’t want given any credit gives far from a clear answer.

John Key wrote that he believes now is the time for us as New Zealanders to have the national discussion around changing the flag.

I disagree. This is all for a vanity project in John Key’s name. We should all remember the word vanity comes from the Latin root Vanus which meant empty.

I began this process with an open mind. My mind is now made up. Now is not the time to change the flag. It wasn’t at the start of the process. It certainly is not now, no matter how many times the Prime Minister tries to convince us it is.

Mallard’s mind was obviously made up a long time ago. He has been campaiging against the referendums and against flag change for yonks.

Mallard announced that Labour would oppose change in March – see Loony Labour line on flag questions – despite change still published Labour Party policy.

But his and Labour’s opposition to flag change the Key way goes back into last year:

Petition 2014/0006 of Hon Trevor Mallard
During our consideration of this bill we also heard evidence on Petition 2014/0006 of Hon Trevor Mallard, requesting

That the House note that 30,366 people have signed an online petition calling for the Government to include a question in the first flag referendum asking New Zealanders if they want a change of flag or not.

The petition, along with other submissions, supported the inclusion of an initial “yes/no” question immediately before the proposed four alternative flag designs to be ranked in the first referendum. The petitioner argues that this referendum structure would allow participants to consider the alternative flag designs to help them decide whether or not they want to change the flag. If a majority voted against changing the flag, then the current New Zealand flag would be kept. The petitioner argued that this structure could save money as it might negate the need for a second referendum.

If the majority voted to change the flag, under the petition’s proposal the second referendum would be a run-off between the current flag and the highest-ranked alternative.

The majority of us recognise that if this procedure were followed, many of those who voted against changing the flag would probably not proceed to rank alternative flags, and therefore not contribute to selecting the preferred alternative. We note that the 2011 referendum on the voting system used a similar structure, and more than 50 percent of voters who voted to keep MMP in Part A did not go on to vote for a preference in Part B.

The majority of us note that the petitioner’s proposed referendum structure was considered by Ministry of Justice officials in preparing the Regulatory Impact Statement on the bill. The option was not among the top four for achieving the goal of a legitimate and enduring electoral outcome. There are a variety of reasons for this. For example, for a change of flag to occur, a majority of voters would have to vote twice for change, both in the first and second referendum; whereas those opposed to change could prevail at either referendum. The majority of us believe that the petitioner’s proposed structure would bias the referendum in favour of the status quo. A further reason against the proposal is that placing a first-past-the-post vote on whether or not the flag should be changed alongside a preferential vote as to the design of a possible new flag would cause complexity and thus confusion for voters. We note that the petitioner argued against this assumption.

Some submitters argued that adding an initial “yes/no” question into the first referendum would save money. However, the advice from the Electoral Commission is that not proceeding with the second referendum would produce only very limited cost savings. Net savings would be $2.27 million (given sunk costs already incurred and additional costs).

The majority of us therefore recommend no change to the referendum structure.

So Mallard is misrepresenting the cost – the first referendum with or without his amendment would incur most of the cost.

New Zealand Labour Party minority view

We stand strongly opposed to this bill.

While we question whether there is a genuine appetite for a debate around the flag, this has not been the primary reason for our opposition. Rather, it is the structure of the referendum that we object to.

And when they didn’t get the structure changed (which would have been against expert advice) Mallard and Labour switched to total opposition.

The most consistent argument against this proposed referendum structure was that it would be too complex for voters—we consider this argument to be an insult to the intelligence of the New Zealand population.


Labour wanted to make it more complex.

Mallard seems to have forgoten about this “most consistent argument” now a simple alternative choice in the first referendum and a simple new versus old i the second.

Mallard’s changing arguments are an insult to the intelligence of the New Zealand population

How can he know what Kiwis want when he doesn’t seem to know what he wants, except to oppose key’s flag initiative? Petty politics at it’s worst.

Leave a comment


  1. Mike C

     /  27th August 2015

    Mallard doesn’t have a clue, when it comes to putting his Party’s Policies to the Nation.

    I have watched and heard him in his role as the Deputy Speaker.

    Trevor has done a much better job in the Speakers position, than he has done as a Minister of Parliament 🙂

  2. Change the flag and sack the duck.

  3. rayinnz

     /  27th August 2015

    Trevor is a fool, not only is he ignoring Labours Policy on the subject, who remembers the name of the Canadian PM when they changed their flag

  4. DaveG

     /  27th August 2015

    Trevor needs to make himself useful, like starting a Poll on TradeMe, he seems to know his way round that site at least.

  5. One of Trevor Mallard’s achievements is being singled out for being a politician acting in a way which is an insult to the intelligence of the New Zealand population. Excuse me? Quite an achievement I reckon. You see clearly in recent years we have seen leaders in the Government misleading the public, withholding the truth, misrepresenting things, obfuscating and plain lying. And all of those actually in Parliament.

    Those ways of operating have been found to be acceptable not an insult to our intelligence. The myopic, blind, co-conspirators and simple apologists add to those insults to our intelligence by insulting our intelligence again by expecting us to accept the malfeasance.

    Mallard’s main crime of course is that he is against one of the ‘flavour of the month’ things, the Prime Minister’s pet project. At least if he was going to demonstrate his incompetence he should have done it about something important.

  6. jamie

     /  27th August 2015

    I think the NZ First option makes the most sense. Just put the current flag up for ranking alongside the other 4 contenders.

    Seems simple and uncomplicated and I don’t think it favours any particular outcome. Is there a good argument against this route?

    • It splits the pro-change vote four ways. Not a fair way to do it at all.

      • jamie

         /  27th August 2015

        Sorry Pete I don’t follow. How does it split the vote?

        • All those who want no change will vote for the current flag. Those who want change will be split between the different alternatives. That gives ‘no change’ a 4x advantage.

          The two referendum system was advised as the fairest way to determine an alternative flag and whether New Zealand wanted to change to it or stay with the current flag. That’s been well explained.

          • jamie

             /  28th August 2015

            I think you misunderstood, the proposal I referred to involved only a single referendum so there would be no such thing as a “change vs no change” vote to split.

            It would be one question of “which flag do you like best”, which doesn’t give an advantage to any flag.

            • That would only work fairly if it was the current flag versus one alternative. Which is what we get to decide in the second referendum.

              But to get there an alternative needs to be chosen first – and what better way to do that than let people vote for their preference?

            • jamie

               /  28th August 2015

              If it really is just about choosing the flag you like best then I don’t really see the difference between choosing the flag you like best out of five, and choosing the flag you like best out of four then out of two.

              Either way the same flags are in the running, and either way the most popular flag wins.

              I suppose if your preference was to “change the flag no matter what the alternatives” then the proposal could be seen to disadvantage that position, but to be honest I don’t see that as a serious position that any meaningful amount of people would take. (Bound to be a few, of course).

              I hope you don’t think I’m trying to wind you up, I appreciate your viewpoint on this but we do see it slightly differently.

              I also realise it’s moot anyway as we have the process we have, and I don’t really have a problem with it. The most important thing is for as many people as possible to participate.

            • Ok, we’ll agree to disagree on that.

              Except that I do agree that it’s important that as many people as possible participate in the process.

  7. Brown

     /  28th August 2015

    Bollocks Pete. If the old flag gets over 50% of the vote it shows clearly people don’t want a change at a level that should be indulged. It the 4 other options combine to more than 50% the debate can continue.

    The charade has been expensively engineered to get what Key wants. Just as well the TPPA turned to shit despite the punters being sidetracked and running around like headless chickens.


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