Now listen up: Granny Young lectures on what the flag vote has taught you

We don’t do constitutional reform very well in New Zealand. That was clear from the reactions of the various parties to the flag referendum: triumphalism from political winners and faux patriotism from the losers beseeching us to be more proud of the New Zealand flag (sorry, no way).

The debate that preceded the vote was politicised and unedifying. So it’s worth taking some lessons from the flag referendum.

Not that changing the flag is actually a constitutional issue – at the margins, possibly.

But call for reform is a constant feature of the political landscape and you never know when the next opportunity will present itself.

Only this week, with the appointment of Dame Patsy Reddy as the next Governor-General, two party leaders, Metiria Turei of the Greens and Peter Dunne of United Future, advanced credible proposals for change to the next appointment in five years.

I need a lie down.? How often do you see any self-respecting political commentator form the following phrase and expect to receive respect:? “Metiria Turei of the Greens and Peter Dunne of United Future, advanced credible proposals“.?

Selection_017Labour leader Andrew Little’s attack on the integrity of the Flag Consideration Panel chaired by the eminent and principled Professor John Burrows showed how far they would go for a no-change result.

Labour’s Grant Robertson gave a fine-sounding speech about how the flag debate should be held in concert with a wider conversation about New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements. That’s why he was voting against a referendum.

It was a newly invented condition. That was not part of its policy in the 2014 election. Besides which, there have been two reviews in the past 12 years on New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements.

The upshot of those reviews is that New Zealanders don’t want big constitutional conversations.

I was one of the very early commentators calling this a folly for Key.? Readers may remember phrases such as “dying in a ditch” and “spending political capital”.

It is in fact remarkable that a coalition government where one partner has been returned with the largest MMP majority ever, and in a third term, isn’t able to get its policies across the line.

As for Audrey Young dismissing New Zealanders’ patriotism as fake, that says more about her cynicism and world view than those she comments on.



– Audrey Young, NZ Herald