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.