The flag referendum farce – for sheer gall, John Key?

 We should hand it to John Key? No, not our own flag, with its highly relevant cross watching over our skies, far more relevant to our history, traditions and intellectual heritage than a piece of plant. We all know how strangely keen our Prime Minister has been to get rid of our flag, with all its important symbols, its link to so many of our fine colonial antecedents, and to our democratic and Christian traditions.

So keen, that with areas of the economy in desperate need of funding; people removed from hospital waiting lists; our iconic Starship Children’s Hospital having to beg for funds from the community; our apparent inability to afford cancer drugs available in England and Australia even…with the job losses multiplying and shops closing down all over the country – nothing, apparently, has been so important to Key as getting rid of this flag…irrespective of the initial-only, $25 million cost.

Why? He has in almost unseemly fashion shown himself more than willing to accept any other design – provided it’s not our flag, which has historically meant so much to New Zealanders worldwide. And, ironically, the flag which finally “won” the recent referendum to go up against our own flag, wasn’t even the one which got most votes! It was only because of the distortions of preferential voting that the flag which was placed second eventually beat the one the majority voted for.

In a way, this says it all. We have now become a country where the views of the majority have become sidelined. Our political circuses and strong interest groups with the ear of government indulge in inappropriate deal-making – as with the now all-powerful iwi corporations – inappropriately called tribes – which do not represent majority part-Maori, but scramble for self-advantage. Inevitably, this works against the interests of all other New Zealanders.

Too close to this National Party government, they are being allowed to bypass the courts to deal with (in the view of informed commentators) a highly problematic Minister of Treaty Negotiations, when advancing multi-million dollar “compensation” claims. They are also successfully contriving for themselves utterly undemocratic prior “rights” in direct contradiction to the written, and well understood, provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi. That virtual control of the water in this country should be given to these now immensely wealthy corporations of part-Maori descent – often highly attenuated – is not only incredible – but democratically utterly illegitimate. That hasn’t stopped the Key government from proposing this.

So what is happening? And why what some see as the sell-out of our country, both to internal and external, powerful and monied vested interests? Somehow, John Key’s personal dogged determination to get rid of our New Zealand flag symbolises to many something essentially ominous. Are they right?

There’s certainly little doubt that Key is pulling all stops out to try to influence a future flag change when the recent second choice (defeating the one most voted for) will get put up – with its banal, sombre imagery (not yet more black inflicted on NZers!) – against our real flag. His comments on National Radio when the results were announced were pretty much sort of thing we’ve come to expect from a PM who doesn’t seem to know the meaning of inappropriate – or presumptuous. Reportedly, he commented to the effect that when the flag changes, “everyone will wonder what the fuss was about”.

Well, we all know who started to fuss. And not only is his comment arguably inappropriate and presumptuous…it is tarred with a degree of arrogance, twinned with evasiveness, with which we have become very familiar. And the result has been unfortunate. As New Zealanders are almost certain to vote to retain a much-loved flag, his claim has aroused a degree of suspicion about whether or not the result would be able to be rigged. And interestingly enough, some with no interest at all in a flag change voted in this initial referendum simply to make sure that the flag perceived as most politically loaded and divisive, the Koru design, did not get chosen.

The estimated 43% of the electorate who enrolled and voted is not a mandate for change. Moreover, some deliberately voted informally to send a protest message. And that the winning flag attracted only 574, 364 votes does not justify the Prime Minister’s rah-rah attitude.

The downsides to the silver fern choice are obvious. Some countries perceive it as a feather. And not only do several others also have the silver fern, used by our sporting teams, but more relevantly – or ominously – it has a Chinese Communist association. Silver Fern Farms, the now Chinese/New Zealand Milk company, with its new majority shareholder, Shanghai Maling, has not only also acquired the land that sits under the Silver Fern’s plants, but is chasing 50 percent of New Zealand’s biggest meat company. As a start. And it is not irrelevant that under the terms of the TTPA, according to some reports, New Zealanders will be unable to prevent the sell-out of even more of our farmland, housing stock and strategic assets to foreign buyers.

Moreover, the Chinese-owned buyer of Canterbury dairy farms is reporting it got a huge bargain, at $41 million less than they were worth. Milk New Zealand Holdings owned by wealthy Chinese businessman Zhaobai Jiang, through his company Shanghai Pengxin, bought 15 dairy farms around Ashburton in its takeover of Synlait Farms. That’s apparently just fine by the Key-dominated government.

Let’s face it. Given that our ill-spoken, egoistical PM, who has in many respects been a national embarrassment, thinks that because he himself wants a new flag, everybody else should be made to pay the probably hundreds of millions of dollars eventually such a move would cost – (so that he can have his own way) – there’s one potential choice which it might have been relevant to see put up against our real flag.

So that we can remember him, after he has chosen his next career move, and remember how he presided over the selling out of our country…that our farmland was gradually bought up, hectare by hectare by foreign buyers; that our children could no longer look forward to one day being able to afford their own houses; that multimillionaires from around the world – with this Prime Minister’s connivance – snapped up our best scenic assets as boltholes, so that New Zealanders became second-rate citizens in our own country – it might have been arguably relevant to have had a potential flag design of an outsize black key, centred on a gold background, representing what, in the eyes of many, New Zealand is being sold out for – and the politician who has allowed this to happen.

And from Australia, where they are predicting a landslide win by New Zealanders voting to retain our own proud flag – rather than a new mere branding image – see the December 12 piece on https://www.facebook.com/acmnorepublic/ arguing that the process has been shoddy indeed.

A fair dinkum comment.

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© Amy Brooke – Convenor, http://www.100days. co.nz – author of The 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand …what has gone wrong, and how we can control our politicians –  available on Kindle or through any good bookstore.