With the list of the final 40 just published, the debate has barely begun, apart from the objections by Opposition parties – two of which appear to be opposing the review for opposition’s sake.
Quite what Labour and the Greens will do when the debate gains momentum will present a conundrum for them. They cannot continue to attack the referendum process without indirectly attacking New Zealanders who are interested in it and want to be part of it.
They have ignored a basic principle in politics as in life: to thine own self be true, or the voters will see right through you.
It was understandable for the parties to rail against the Government asset sales programme last term – even though National won a mandate for it – because it was against Labour and Green policy.
But to rail against a review of the New Zealand flag – which National also promised at the last election – when it echoes your own party’s policy is simply dishonest and erodes trust in a party.
Labour campaigned on reviewing the flag. Andrew Little said he favoured a referendum. But purely because it is National doing it (which was an explicit promise in the manifesto), they are opposing the very thing they championed.
How can you trust a party that objects to its own policy?
The low turnout to public meetings on the flag was no surprise. There may even be a low turnout to the first postal referendum (November 20 to December 11) to choose the best alternative from four final flags.
But the interest in the referendum that really counts, the one from March 3 to 24, will be intense.
That is when the present flag will be put up against a single alternative.
I’ll bet the turnout for that vote will be as high as a general election.
Yep. Maybe not quite that high but I think it will be the highest a referendum has had, not concurrent with an election, in 15 years.
Labour also argues there should have been a referendum first to see whether voters wanted change before spending the money on the process.
But you wouldn’t expect to agree to a free house-paint without knowing what colour it was going to be.
And as the officials designing the process pointed out, “asking people to vote without seeing what these alternative designs look like would risk the legitimacy of the referendum process”.
It’s silly to have a vote, without knowing what you are voting on.
Labour leader Andrew Little this week said he would not vote in the referendum.
And, more absurdly, the party’s flag spokesman, Trevor Mallard, said that in November’s preferential vote he would rank the flag he thought was best the last and the flag he disliked the most the best.
That way, if everyone were as clever as Trevor, the present flag would be pitted against the most horrible one in March, the present flag would stay and John Key could be accused of having wasted time and money.
That is all it is about for Labour. They acre nothing about the opportunity we have to vote on what should be out national flag for the first time ever. They want to sabotage the process, as a way to attack Key. It is why they are unfit for office.