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.


Moroney baloney

Labour MP Sue Moroney managed to capture most of the post-flag atention yesterday with an ill-advised tweet and a lame apology after a rebuke from her leader Andrew Little.

Her tweet:

There really really doesn’t look much in that, snarky for sure, but not just an off the cuff remark as it included a photo which wasn’t a good idea. There was a critical response on Twitter.

And also from Little:

Little not impressed with flag tweet

“I thought it was ill-judged and inappropriate, and I’ve told her that,” Mr Little said.

“It was brought to my attention this morning. I just didn’t think it was a good look, and I’ve told her that.”

Moroney tweeted an apology:

Apology for any offence caused by my tweet yesterday – none intended. I regret it & can see how it could be misinterpreted. Of course everyone has the right to have a view on the flag.

Not surprisingly that was hammered as a Clayton’s apology – an attempted apology that isn’t an apology.

Moroney had dug herself into a bigger hole trying to explain, and then refusing to explain:

Moroney said her comments had been misinterpreted “in several different ways”.

“I just apologise for it and move on, because I’ve come to Parliament to debate issues of real relevance and so it’s a side issue, I don’t want it to overshadow all of the important issues that we’ve got in front of us.”

However, Moroney would not explain how exactly her comments had been misinterpreted, or the original intent of her tweet.

“Oh look, no, I’ve apologised for it, I regret it, and I’ve got no further comment apart from that.”

She did not plan to delete the tweet, but would be happy to do so if people asked.

“I’m one of those people who believes that you own your tweets, I’ve owned it, I’ve apologised for it, and if people do want me to delete it, I’m happy to do that, but it’s Twitter – that’s what it is.”

That’s from ‘Flash beach house’ owners targeted by Labour MP’s flag attack speak out, in which the beach house owners had a say:

A family member of the beach house’s owners, who did not want to be named, said Moroney’s comments had upset them.

“We are shocked by her comments vilifying us for owning a beach house and….suggesting that because we are apparently ‘rich’, this does not give us the right to have an opinion on our national flag.

“Her judgements came across badly and we did not appreciate having photos of our property published online simply, because we had a different opinion on the flag choice.”

The woman had contacted Little to share her concerns, and her family had since received a personal apology from Moroney, who deleted the post as requested.

But that horse has well and truly bolted, the original tweet has been replicated all over media and social media.

Also spread around social media:

Ms Moroney jointly owns four properties. According to the Register of Pecuniary and Other Specified Interests of Members of Parliament: Summary of annual returns as at 31 January 2015 she owns:

Family home (jointly owned), Waikato
Rental property (jointly owned), Waikato
Apartment (jointly owned), Wellington
Holiday home (jointly owned), Coromandel

So she has interests in several properties, including her own holiday home, and obviously thinks she is qualified to single out and criticise a property owner.

This was on the first day back in Parliament after the flag referendum, where Labour could have  been expected to try to score some points on the ‘no change’ result.

Little tried to capitalise in Question Time but I didn’t see that reported at all. The Moroney baloney dominated the flag discussion for the day – see Andrew Little on referendum spending






Andrew Little on flag and republic

One Breakfast this morning Andrew Little said he wants to revisit a new flag “sooner rather than later” and he would discuss a republic referendum “at the end of the reign of the current monarch”.

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

In the wake of the flag referendum, the opposition leader said he voted against the alternative as it “doesn’t reflect anything about New Zealand at all”.

Many people seem to think that the Southern Cross on blue reflects quite a bit about New Zealand. And many more think that the fern on black reflects quite a bit too.

43% voted for a combination  of both, which is quite a bit more than Labour’s 27% vote in the last election.

Does Little think that Labour doesn’t reflect anything about New Zealand at all?

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”.

If Labour revisits a change of flag sooner rather than later they risk being ridiculed for their hypocrisy.

Little opposed a flag that was supported by John Key, but somehow thinks he can come up with a flag that “genuinely represents who we are, the diversity that is New Zealand”.  The diversity of New Zealand pretty much guarantees Little’s preference won’t make all New Zealanders feel genuinely represented.

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.

Good luck with trying to have a good public debate. The country couldn’t even debate a flag change like adults.

“To me the big issue is… a sense of identity, standing on our own two feet.

“The way to do this is to have a Head of State who’s not living in London but in New Zealand.”

If he really thinks the big issue is “a sense of identity, standing on our own two feet” why wait until the current monarch has died?

Did he wait until his mother died before he left home, developed a sense of identity and stood on his own feet?


Appetite for flag change

While flag change was rejected by a clear majority in the referendum I think we can learn a lot from that happened.

And I think there is appetite for a change of flag, at the right time, done the right way and with the right flag choice.More than expected voted for the bob each way Lockwood fern/Souther Cross flag, despite strong opposition to it for a number of reasons.

It’s impossible to know the proportions of voters who voted against the Lockwood design but they would include:

  • Those who don’t want flag change
  • Those who preferred the current flag
  • Those who want the Union Jack on our flag
  • Those who objected to the process
  • Those who think we should address a constitution or Republic first or along with flag change
  • Those who didn’t like the Lockwood design
  • Those who don’t like the fern on a flag
  • Those who thought the Lockwood design was too complicated
  • Those who voted against John Key, against the Government, against flags generally etc

If most of those issues could be substantially addressed I think there could be a clear majority who would support flag change. If we ever get the chance again.

But the process has been worthwhile – despite all the controversies and despite the deliberate political and petty spoiling the process got us talking about and debating our flag and our identity.

The first lesson is trying to avoid a petty political shit fight – and Key, Little/Labour, Greens and Peters/NZ First all bear some responsibility for the trash talk and party posturing we’ve just had. It wasn’t surprising but was very disappointing.

The big lesson for me is that an ideal flag is:

  • as simple as possible – while I like the fern I know some people really don’t like it it may always be divisive
  • as distinctive as possible. When you get more than two or three colours, and when you get complicated designs it gets hard to get and aesthetically pleasing design or widespread support for a design.

I’ve thought about what would be the simplest possible distinctive design with a New Zealand flavour.

For colours I think black has to be included but just a black nor black and white flag wouldn’t be suitable, so I’d add blue to it to retain a connection with the past and with the current flag.

There are no other national flags with black/white/blue  horizontally (Estonia has blue/black/white) so that is distinctive.

And I suggest 50% black as that’s the colour we’re most associated with, and it provides a good canvas enhanced use of the flag (see below).

And a narrower strip of white above blue is symbolic of the long white cloud of Aotearoa. You can’t get much more of a ‘first people’ connection than that.



That’s simple, distinctive, is Aotearoa/New Zealand appropriate and the black half makes it easy to add a fern for sports teams or any symbol to suit special purposes.

Having made a mess of the process we’ve just had I don’t see any political parties brave enough or willing enough to flaunt their hypocrisy to give us a chance to debate and decide again in the foreseeable future.

So change will need to be initiated by the people (or at least some people) and make something a de fact alternative.

NZ Flag, NZ symbol

The people of New Zealand have democratically chosen to retain the flag adopted in 1902. Fair enough. A clear but smaller than expected majority either wanted to keep this flag or for a variety of reasons didn’t want the alternative flag.


The alternative was a bob each way flag, retaining some of the character of the existing flag but dropping the colonial union jack and including New Zealand’s most recognisable symbol, the silver fern on black (except the fern wasn’t silver).

So the country will continue with split identities – an official flag that features another flag and is often confused with our neighbours, Australia, and a unique and widely used symbol, the fern on black.

Here’s some examples of what New Zealand will be recognised by:












Some war service and family connections:





And so it goes on. Like it or not the fern is New Zealand’s symbol.

We will continue to have our over a hundred year old New Zealand flag.

And we will continue to use and be recognised by the silver fern in it’s many forms.


This is our reality.

Flag referendum results…

…are now out: NO FLAG CHANGE

  • Union jack flag 1,200,003 – 56.6%
  • Silver fern flag 915,008 – 43.2%

Total votes 2,119,953

Results here.

No surprise. And not far off my prediction.

Lesson – politicians and political parties should keep out of peoples choices and let us decide what we want. Too much interference from Key, from Labour, from Greens and from Winston Peters.

And a big black mark for the media who especially in the earlier stages trivialised and opinionised far too much.

New Zealand has voted to retain our current flag. I encourage all NZers to use it, embrace it and, more importantly, be proud of it.

To be honest, yeah we are keeping it as our flag but it has never done anything for me, so I find it hard to be proud of a flag with someone else’s flag on it.

Posted earlier:

…will be out this evening (8 pm or 8:30 pm according to two different sources) and I’ll post them here as soon as they are available.

John Key has said he is hopeful change will be chosen, based on feedback from people he has had, most National MPs say they are voting for change, and through internal polling.

But Key’s internal pollster David Farrar has flagged the chance of change in  Why the flag vote was for the status quo.

Read from those two what you want to.

The number of votes returned is over 2 million with more to come in. That’s a very good indication of interest in the referendum.

We’ll find out soon, but most seem to expect an easy win for ‘no change’.


Flag referendum

It’s just about too late to vote in the flag referendum unless you ensure it is posted and postmarked by close of voting on Thursday.

Chief electoral officer Robert Peden said voting papers needed to be cleared and postmarked before voting closed on Thursday at 7pm, with the “best bet” to take it to a PostShop before the close of business.

The turnout is much better than for the first referendum, which is a success of sorts. It hasn’t been the flop with voters that some predicted or wanted. Those who wanted to keep the current flag as well as those who wanted the new one will have been motivated to vote to ensure they gave their p[reference the best chance possible.


  • Votes received up to 22 March – 1,927,444
  • Total votes in first flag referendum – 1,543,362
  • Total party votes, 2014 general election – 2,104,707

So that’s a healthy turnout.

Preliminary results will be announced some time after 7:00 pm tomorrow, 24 March.

The final result will be declared on 30 March.


$458m to change passport flags?

This is about as pathetic as it can get, even by Winston Peters’ attention seeking standards. It sounds like Peters is going to extremes to try and influence the flag referendum.

Changing flag on NZ passports could cost $458M — NZ First

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says he has since done some further investigating.

“We asked the Minister of Internal Affairs what would the cost be if every valid New Zealand passport had to be recalled and re-issued,” says Mr Peters.

“The minister replied ‘from $0 to $458,221,788’. So, the cost of changing the passports would be $458 million, but by saying $0 suggests no reissue is contemplated by the Government.

“If the alternative flag was adopted we would have the bizarre situation of having our passports with one flag, and our country with another flag.”

He seems to be claiming both extremes, but neither makes any sense.

It would be ridiculous cancelling and reissuing all passports.

And complaining about “the wrong flag” on passports is stupid. You have too look closely to even see the flag on passports (as part of the coat of arms), it’s not identifiable in silver on black on the front cover, and barely identifiable in colour on the inside cover.

There are plenty of prominent silver ferns on the outside and inside of both covers and also on the coat of arms.


If Peters wants to get his passport replaced with one with a new flag on it he’s welcome to pay for it himself. I doubt that anyone else would care.

Last day/s to vote on flag

The Electoral Commission is advising that votes in the flag referendum should be posted today to ensure they are received on time in the flag referendum, so if you want to vote but haven’t yet then it’s time to act.

The closing date is Thursday (24 March) and I think in the first referendum as long as they were postmarked before or on the final day they were accepted, so if you don’t do it today then tomorrow or Wednesday may also make the cut.

There were 1,707,207 votes received by last Thursday, compared to under 1.2 million (48.78%) at about the same stage of the first referendum, so it’s a healthy turnout of nearly 54% already.

The asset sale turnout was about 47% but that was non-binding and was more of a political campaign run by the opposition.


If you haven’t already voted, tick and post.

Flag referendum prediction

This is a good time to make predictions about the outcome of the flag referendum.

After just over a week (1 week and 1 day) of voting 1,406,870 papers have been returned. With two and a half weeks to go that’s a healthy looking return.

The total votes received in the first referendum were 1,546,734.

What does a high turnout mean? Traditionalists turning out in force? A movement towards change?

My wishful thinking: change 51%, no change 49%

My prediction: no change 56.5%, change 43.5%

What do you think? Bragging rights to the closest prediction.


NZH file photo