Flag symbol of class warfare

Not long ago Chris Trotter wrote hopefully that protest against the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement was symbol of an uprising of class warfare that would build into revolution.

The TPPA protest has fizzled away, so Trotter has turned his attention to the flag referendum, and more specifically to Sue Moroney’s snarky tweet that caused a bit of a fluff last week.

Trotter asks Was Class The Decisive Factor In Determining The Flag Referendum’s Outcome?

FOR THE BEST PART OF A WEEK, the Labour MP, Sue Moroney, has been on the receiving end of a vicious media caning. Her crime? Tweeting a photograph of a handsome Waihi Beach property flying the Silver Fern Flag, accompanied by the incendiary caption: “Just because you own a flash beach house doesn’t mean you get to decide our flag.”

He works his way to…

At the core of Ms Moroney’s tweet is the unmistakeable whiff of class warfare. Her generous parliamentary salary notwithstanding, she clearly reacted with visceral working-class fury to the visual cues of the Silver Fern Flag and a “flash beach house”.

Her ownership of four properties including a holiday home also withstanding – Moroney is an unlikely flag bearer for the working class.

Something in her personality (and in the personalities of tens-of-thousands of her fellow New Zealanders) linked together wealth, power, the proposal to change the flag, and the Prime Minister, in a causal chain of extraordinary emotive strength.

In a peculiar, largely unacknowledged way, voting to retain the flag became, for many Kiwis, a small but satisfying gesture of class defiance.

For many Kiwis? How does Trotter measure that? There’s a range of reasons that people voted against flag change, a prominent one being the colonial class who wanted to t=retain the Union Jack symbol of the United Kingdom.

Perhaps this explains why Ms Moroney’s tweet has elicited such an angry response from those who, in one way or another, contrived to carry the Prime Minister’s flag. Her bitter caption clearly stung them in ways many found difficult to explain. It implied that at least some members of the punditocracy had behaved discreditably; lined up with the wrong people; backed the wrong cause.

At the very least, Ms Moroney’s “class warfare” tweet has cast the indisputable class divide separating those who voted for the present flag from those who voted against it, in a new and disquieting light.

About the only disquieting thing about Moroney’s tweet was her lack of awareness about how a petty attack on some peoeple and their holiday home might be perceived. It was not a good look for an MP or for the Labour Party, as Andrew Little acknowledged.

But I think it’s extremely unlikely that Sue Moroney will become an inadvertent flag bearer for a Kiwi uprising into class warfare.

For most people the flag referendum faded quickly into Easter.

Trotter will have to look harder for his revolutionary leader, and hope for another divisive issue to tear New Zealand apart.

Maybe a few weeks after Helen Clark’s successful or failed bid for the lead position of the UN he will see some fissure in the fabric of our society in that.

In the meantime I guess he can continue scouring Twitter for hidden signs of his revolution.

Or maybe he could flag searching in futility for his Comrade Kiwi king.

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.

Winston Peters lost in РУССКИЙ translation

Winston Peters is lost in translation nit picking again. Or worse – providing a misleading translation and using it to seek attention to try and get a voter reaction against flag chance perhaps?

‘Worrying incompetence’ in flag pamphlets – Peters

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said today the Russian text in a pamphlet accompanying voting papers “twists the meaning to again promote a flag change”.

“The Russian translates as ‘Put a tick next to the flag that in your opinion should become the New Zealand flag’,” Mr Peters said.

“It’s subtle but suggests a flag change; it should read ‘should be the New Zealand flag’.”

Mr Peters said: “The level of incompetence is worrying.”

It’s this level of trying to interfere with the referendum that should worry people. At least  Peters isn’t calling for the votes of Russian speakers to be nullified. He took a swipe at Hindi speakers earlier in the week.

But who did the translation for Peters? Here it is in Russian:

1. Отметьте   галочкой тот флаг, который, по вашему мнению, должен стать флагом Новой Зеландии.

Google translation:

1. Tick the flag that, in your opinion, should be the flag of New Zealand.

That sounds fine to me. A Russian speaker may – or may not – translate it differently, but I have no idea why they might .

Who would think a referendum was suggesting which choice to tick?

Even the wording of the translation provided by Peters looks like extreme nitpicking. Have any Russian speaking voters complained about being confused by the simplest sort of referendum you could get – tick the flag you prefer?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Peters’ plan was to try and provoke a voter reaction against Hindus and Russians.