I will be honest: I support changing the flag. I think the New Zealand flag is out of date and that our ties with Britain are not so strong now that the Union Jack should remain on it.
You might therefore think I am delighted that the Prime Minister of New Zealand is talking about changing it. Under other circumstances you would be right. But not at the moment. Not whilst it is glaringly obvious that the motive for the Prime Minister talking about changing the flag is anything about seriously dealing with the most important official national symbol of this country.
The truth is that the flag debate is nothing more than a political diversion. Whilst political diversions are as old as politics, and are intended to divert the public’s attention away from something more serious – in this case very likely the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement – every time one is detected it raises due (and undue) suspicions about what the true agenda of the Government of the day is. The evidence for saying so is the suddenness with which this whole issue just reared out of nowhere because the Prime Minister suddenly decided that it was necessary to talk about a change. Suddenly National could find millions of dollars to fund this when $30,000 to keep open the Christchurch Rape Crisis centre could not be found. A smoke screen in other words.
If for example this had occurred in the middle of the previous Parliamentary term when New Zealand was having the debate about whether or not to adopt a new constitution, it would not have been out of place at all. Many people would have been considering national symbols, the legal framework on which this country is founded and so forth.
Before the flag can be changed a strict procedure needs to be applied. One cannot just change a flag and expect everyone to go with the new design, especially if there people who have died for that flag as there are in New Zealand. One cannot change a flag with consulting the indigenous peoples of that country – it would be quite an affront to Maori to not be given any consultative time on this issue. Whilst I cannot imagine, despite liking the design the Tino Rangitiratanga flag of Maori sovereignty being the winning design an all inclusive design would need to acknowledge their heritage.
And here is where resistance is likely. The 30,000 New Zealanders who have died under this flag, which would have been draped over the coffins of those whose remains were found, did not die just so the democratic principles on which this country and the national symbols that represent us overseas could be ruthlessly trampled on for the sake of a few. There are good reasons for the Returned Services Association being up in arms about this, not least with so many of its members who fought for the flag still being alive, despite their age and dwindling numbers – and who will march on Saturday and stand at attention under that flag one more time.
One day the time for a true debate minus the shenanigans will come. But that date is not now.