Key flags flag debate for next term

The PM has announced:

Prime Minister John Key today outlined a plan to hold a public discussion and vote next parliamentary term on New Zealand’s flag.

In a speech at Victoria University today, Mr Key said it was his belief that the design of the current flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed.

“I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through a new flag,” he says.

He outlined a plan for a cross-party group of MPs to recommend the best referenda process, and a steering group to ensure the public has the opportunity to engage in discussion on the flag and to submit design ideas.

“It’s really important that consideration of a new flag includes genuine input from New Zealanders.  All voices need an opportunity to be heard,” he says.

“A flag that unites all New Zealanders should be selected by all New Zealanders.  This decision is bigger than party politics.”

Mr Key says that should he have the privilege of remaining Prime Minister after the general election in September, he would write to leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament asking them to nominate an MP to join a cross-party group to oversee the flag consideration process.

The group would recommend the best referenda process to follow, and also be involved in nominating New Zealanders from outside Parliament to form a steering group which would be primarily responsible for ensuring the public has the opportunity to engage in the debate.

“One of the tasks of that steering group will be to seek submissions from the public on flag designs.

“I would like to see the referenda process completed during the next Parliamentary term, so it does not intrude on the 2017 elections.”

This is a sensible pragmatic way forward. There isn’t enough time for a referendum with this election, and there was a risk that people would say Key is using the flag issue as a distraction. By saying he would seek a referendum or referenda during the next term, he indicates commitment to letting people decide the issue for themselves through a referendum – but not at the expense of overshadowing other issues.

In terms of a process, my preference is:

  1. Cross-party group selects steering group
  2. Steering group calls for designs
  3. Steering group short-lists designs
  4. Steering group selects four possible alternative designs to to voted on. Maybe have an option that people could petition to have another design added to the ballot, if they think a worthy one has been missed out.
  5. An initial referendum where people vote on the alternative design – preferably with a ranked ballot paper of preferences.
  6. The alternative design that gets over 50% support after preferences goes to a second referendum
  7. A final binding referendum with a simple binary choice between the current and the alternative design

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