Andrew Little on referendum spending

Yesterday the flag fallout was dominated by a Labour own goal, Moroney baloney. However Andrew Little tried to score some points on the cost of the flag referendum in Question Time.

Andrew Little: In view of the fact that polls during the course of the referendum process repeatedly showed that there was no public appetite for changing the flag, does he now think that spending $26 million on flag referenda was the best use of public money?

Andrew Little: Why does he think it was better to spend $26 million on a failed flag than on funding a medicine like Keytruda that could save the lives of New Zealanders with advanced melanoma?

Andrew Little: What is more important: $26 million on a failed flag or fixing thousands of State houses that are leaking and mouldy and making our kids sick?

Andrew Little: Why was it better to spend $26 million on a failed flag than on solving burglaries, given the disgraceful fact that over 90 percent of burglaries now go unsolved?

Andrew Little: Is he honestly telling New Zealanders that the Prime Minister’s failed legacy project was more important than saving Kiwi lives, making our homes fit to live in, and making sure our families are safe from criminals?

Bill English, as acting Prime Minister, batted those off. His final response:

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As we have said earlier, when the Government has sound fiscal management it can spend money on a whole range of desirable activities. In fact, the debate about the flag has proven to be the most engaging debate about national identity that New Zealand has enjoyed in a long time, and it is just a pity that the Labour Party took such a partisan political view of it.

It’s been pointed out that Labour’s own policy in the last election and up until recently was for a flag change process similar to what we have just had and which they strongly opposed because of the cost.

If Labour had won the last election I wonder how they would have funded a flag debate and referendum.

And if Little manages to become Prime Minister he has said he wants to revisit the flag debate “sooner rather than later”:

Should New Zealand become a republic? Labour leader signals referendum plan

Mr Little said the country should revisit the issue “sooner rather than later”, suggesting a flag that “genuinely represents who we are, the diversity that is New Zealand”.

When asked if a republic referendum is something he would do in power, Mr Little said it is something he would discuss.

“I would do that at the end of the reign of the current monarch, have a good public debate,” he said.

How would Little manage to budget for another flag debate plus a republic discussion and possible referendum when Labour has already detailed a priority to spend substantially more money on ‘free’ tertiary education, and also possibly on a universal basic income?

Governments have to juggle many spending priorities and demands.

Opposition parties have to be careful not to appear hypocritical, and not paint themselves into funding priority corners.


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  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  30th March 2016

    Chief hypocrite in action.

  2. Pantsdownbrown

     /  30th March 2016

    The Labour party can’t even raise party funds for themselves (sausage sizzle anybody?)hence why they are pushing for taxpayer funding of election campaigns – pot calling kettle black me thinks.

  3. Patzcuaro

     /  30th March 2016

    I think Little is trying to get on the moral high ground over the flag referendum spending. But at the end of the day there is never going to be enough money to fund drugs to save all the sick people, that’s an unfortunate fact.

    • Iceberg

       /  30th March 2016

      Its worse than that. He’s keeps fighting the last war. The French built the Maginot line to fight WW1 after the fact (didn’t end well). That’s what Little is doing. Doubling down on shit that doesn’t matter anymore is, well, just plain crazy. It’s reminding people that the war was his idea in the first place.

      Also, who is he trying to appeal to! Those that got their way on the flag are happy. Those that didn’t, surely don’t need their noses rubbed in it?

  4. Oliver

     /  30th March 2016

    Little is absolutely right on this. His comments are in line with public opinion. During the whole process there has never been significant support for change. The only people who voted for change were National supporters. Key made a huge mistake and Little had every right to criticize the PM.

    • Patzcuaro

       /  30th March 2016

      I would have thought that 43% for change was significant, then you need to add in those that wanted change but didn’t like the Lockwood flag, the process, or John Key. You could end up with a majority for change, which ever way, 43+% is significant.

  5. I’m reminded yet again that the all important Constitutional part of a Republican discussionis well underway already if people wish to engage in it. It leads inevitably to Identity and eventually new Flag debate.

    Reports are available from the Constitutional Advisory Panel and Matike Mai Aotearoa –

    The report being ‘He Whakaaro Here Whakaumu Mo Aotearoa’ – pdf, 125 pages (recommended reading).

  6. Ray

     /  30th March 2016

    But Oliver, it was Labour policy to change the flag, how were they going to pay for their “better” and longer process

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  30th March 2016

      It wouldn’t cost anything if they did it, of course 😀

      I’d like to see his suggestions on how to solve a burglary where there are no fingerprints or anything else to identify the criminals who did it. Any ideas ? I don’t see how the police are supposed to know whodunnit-crystal balls or tarot cards ?


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