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The Mendacities of Mr Key # 17: The sale of Kiwibank eight years in the planning?

11 April 2016 8 comments

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we will give you honest government - yeah right

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National Makes Good on 2008 Threat to Sell Kiwibank

NZ Post’s, announcement on 6 April that it intends to sell-down  45% of it’s subsidiary, Kiwibank, appears to make good on Bill English’s inadvertent threat in August 2008 that Kiwibank would “eventually be sold”.

English was secretly recorded by an un-named person during a 2008 National Party Conference, and encouraged to talk freely on the prospect of selling Kiwibank;

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English - I didn't choose my words well - NZ Herald - Kiwibank sale

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English subsequently complained; “I did not choose my words well“.

However, it now appears that English expressed his words honestly,  disclosing a secret agenda to sell Kiwibank to someone he believed was a loyal National Party apparatchik.

Another secret recording, this time from National MP Lockwood Smith, also hinted at a secret agenda held by National;

“There’s some bloody dead fish you have to swallow, to get into government to do the kinds of things you want to do. Once we have gained the confidence of the people, we’ve got more chance of doing more things.

We may be able to do some things we believe we need to do, perhaps go through a discussion document process. You wouldn’t be able to do them straight off.”

With the 2008 General Election only three months away, and with a new, untested Leader of the National Party (John Key) facing a seasoned, popular Prime Minister, the secret recordings forced National’s hierarchy to take rapid steps to “kill” the story.

Both English and Key issued public statements  resiling from any intention to sell Kiwibank;

It’s not my view. It’s not my private view. I simply used loose language – I made a statement I shouldn’t have.” – Bill English

We would never make a change to that decision without a mandate.” – John Key

Again in 2008, Key resiled from any sale of Kiwibank;

“I’m ruling out selling Kiwibank at any point in the future.”

And again in 2010,

“National would not sell Kiwibank at any stage, ever. We have ruled it out.”

Making a Promise

On 25 February 2014, our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key, announced to the nation that National’s asset sales programme was over;

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“Just as we did before the last election we’re making our position on share sales clear to New Zealanders before we go to the polls later this year. We’ve achieved what we wanted with the share offers in energy companies and Air NZ. We’re now returning to a business-as-usual approach when it comes to [state-owned enterprises]. The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.”

Just as we did before the last election we’re making our position on share sales clear to New Zealanders before we go to the polls later this year. We’ve achieved what we wanted with the share offers in energy companies and Air NZ. We’re now returning to a business-as-usual approach when it comes to [state-owned enterprises]. The truth is there aren’t a lot of other assets that would fit in the category where they would be either appealing to take to the market or of a size that would warrant a further programme, or they sit in the category that they are very large like Transpower but are monopoly assets so aren’t suited.”

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Two years and nearly two months later, and Key’s promise- like so many other committments he has made – appears to have been watered-down to permit a de-facto partial-sale.

The intended purchasers would be two other SOEs,  NZ Superannuation Funds (25%) and ACC Funds (20%);

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NZ Post to sell 45 per cent of Kiwibank for $495m cash injection

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Breaking the Promise

Even as NZ Post’s Directors were announcing the partial sale of their subsidiary, Kiwibank,  Finance Minister Bill English was engaged in some well-rehearsed damage-control.

No doubt with considerable prompting by Party strategists and media-minders, English reassured the public that National would not allow the people’s bank to end up in private ownership, as the former Postbank did February 1989 when it was sold to the ANZ Bank.

English promised;

“Kiwibank will remain 100 per cent government-owned – that is a bottom-line. To ensure this occurs, the proposal includes a right of first refusal for the Government over any future sale of shares – which we would exercise.”

To be blunt, National cannot be trusted to keep it’s word.

Key knew in advance!

Despite  Key’s  committment to end asset sales on  25 February 2014, it appears from Michael Cullen’s own statements that our esteemed Dear Leader was already aware at around the same time, that a partial asset-sale was being planned by NZ Post.

During a video-taped press-briefing by Fairfax media, Cullen admitted that he and Key had discussed the partial-sale of Kiwibank that year (2013/14).

@ -14.56

So Brian [Roche] and I after discussion, and [I] think I remember correctly, I had a brief discussion with the Post Board, went to see the Prime Minister, to see whether there would be a kind of visceral reaction from the government, as our ultimate share holder, to that happening. That was not the case. Mr Key indicated he was very comfortable with that prospect and on that basis therefore we began to proceed...”

So when Key made his public promise on 25 February, 2014, that National’s asset sales programme was over – he was making that committment whilst knowing full well that the partial sale of Kiwibank was already underway.

Broken promises and secret agendas – this story has it all.

Who Pays? Loyal Kiwibank customers do!

There is a hidden cost to the partial-sale of  Kiwibank.

As David Hargreaves from Interest.co.nz reported;

The move could see Kiwibank’s credit rating slip by one notch from the current A+ to A as NZ Post will likely not guarantee Kiwibank’s future obligations once the deal proceeds.

When a financial institution’s credit rating is reduced, it means (generally) that they become a greater risk of lending money to them.  According to Investpedia;

“…While a borrower will strive to have the highest possible credit rating since it has a major impact on interest rates charged by lenders, the rating agencies must take a balanced and objective view of the borrower’s financial situation and capacity to service/repay the debt.

A credit rating not only determines whether or not a borrower will be approved for a loan, but also the interest rate at which the loan will need to be repaid.

… and a high interest rate is much more difficult to pay back.”

It is entirely likely that when a credit down-grade occurs (as happened to New Zealand under National in September 2011), the cost of borrowing funds will increase for the bank.

Which is precisely what Hargreaves reported;

Standard & Poor’s has indicated that following the announcement of the proposed transaction, Kiwibank’s long term issuer credit rating (A+) will be placed on credit watch negative pending the proposed termination of the standing guarantee provided by NZ Post. Should the guarantee be terminated, Standard & Poor’s has indicated it will result in a one notch downgrade to Kiwibank’s long term issuer credit rating (from A+ to A). 

That cost will either have to be absorbed, reducing their profit margins and making it easier for Key and English to justify full privatisation – or will be passed on to the banks customers.

English will most likely not permit Kiwibank’s profit to fall as that would mean lower dividends paid into government coffers.

Which leaves Kiwibank’s Mum & Dad customers  to foot the bill for the partial-sale.

The Agenda #1

The sale to ACC and NZ Super Fund is a clever ploy. On the face of it, Kiwibank remains in wholly State ownership, albeit shifting it’s shareholders around, from one SOE (NZ Post) to three (NZ Post, ACC, NZ Super Fund).A kind of multi-million dollar Musical Chairs.

At the same time,  this would allow a healthy dividend payment (an amount  yet to be disclosed) to be paid to the government. As Cullen said on 6 April;

“The proceeds would allow New Zealand Post to invest in its core parcels, packages and letters business and pay down debt. It is anticipated that a special dividend would also be paid to the Crown…”

This was confirmed a day later by Bill English speaking with Guyon Espiner, on Radio NZ’s Morning Report;

@ 2.10

Guyon Espiner: “Ok, let’s look at what happens to the $495 million that NZ Post gets from this sale. I understand it doesn’t go to generate any extra capital for Kiwibank, it goes to NZpost to pay down debt and invest in it’s parcel and mail business, right?”

Bill English: “That’s right, and then if there’s, subject to negotiations there may be special dividend passed back to this [inaudible] government.”

English said any dividend payable to the government would “likely be several hundred million“. This would prove a godsend to English who otherwise would be struggling to create another Budget surplus in his May budget.

The Agenda #2

National has not only increased it’s revenue, thereby alleviating a major headache for Bill English, but they have pulled the rug out from under the Greens who, three days earlier, had been calling for increased $100 million investment in Kiwibank. As Greens co-leader James Shaw stated in a recent policy announcement;

“Our plan will help Kiwibank lead a change in New Zealand banking, by giving it a clear public purpose that requires it to drive competition to generate better interest rates for New Zealanders.

We’ll help Kiwibank to grow faster by injecting $100 million of capital into the bank and let it retain more of its profits.

Strengthening Kiwibank so it can create competition in the banking sector is the smartest way to ensure all banks pass on the best interest rates to Kiwis.”

The Agenda #3

A deeply cynical person might suspect that after the defeat of John Key’s pet vanity-project  (the recent flag referendum debacle) that National has decided to exact revenge against the many Labour and Green voters who voted to retain the current flag,  by partial privatisation of a favourite state owned enterprise.

Does such  cynicism border on paranoia? In an era of Dirty Politics; tax-havens with trillions hidden away; and increasingly corruption of state leaders, officials, organisations, and institutions –  the demarcation between healthy scepticism and paranoid fantasies blur, merge, and are tomorrow’s headlines waiting to be made public.

Labour’s Response?

Labour and the Green Party both responded to Cullen’s announcement. As Stacy Kirk wrote for Fairfax Media on 6 April;

The response of opposition parties has been mixed, with the Greens calling it a step down the path of privatisation. 

Labour leader Andrew Little said it was important Kiwibank stayed in public ownership.

“And this does that, there are some good conditions around it,” he said. 

“This provides a way to get extra capital from these sovereign wealth funds, and hopefully for NZ Post to use the funds that they raise from the sale, to put more capital into Kiwibank. 

Meanwhile, Labour Party state-owned enterprise spokesman David Parker said Cullen should be congratulated on the idea. 

“Michael Cullen should be congratulated for securing a route to expand KiwiBank and keep it in public ownership, given the refusal of National to provide more capital for NZ Post or KiwiBank.

“Michael Cullen’s solution only works to ensure the bank will remain in public ownership if National promises that if ACC or the Super Fund sells its shares, then the government of the day would exercise its first right of refusal and buy them back.” 

Labour’s response has not only been weak and naive – but it also appears that David Parker is not “up to speed” with the terms of the sale. It is extraordinary that both Labour’s SOE Spokesperson, David Parker,  and Labour’s Leader, Andrew Little, believe that;

“This provides a way to get extra capital from these sovereign wealth funds… to put more capital into Kiwibank” and that “Michael Cullen should be congratulated for securing a route to expand KiwiBank”.

Nothing of the sort will happen.

Both Cullen and Bill English have been crystal-clear and surprisingly honest in stating that;

  1. “The proceeds would allow New Zealand Post to invest in its core parcels, packages and letters business and pay down debt.” “
  2.  “It is anticipated that a special dividend would also be paid to the Crown.”
  3.  Kiwibank will get nothing.

So where Parker and Little get their cozy ideas about “putting more capital into Kiwibank” is unclear.

Instead,  Green Party co-leader, James Shaw, seemed more cognisant to National’s real agenda;

“The fact is the Government forced Kiwibank’s hand and today’s announcement will make it easier than it was before to move Kiwibank into private ownership.”

Labour needs to get it’s act together on this issue.

The future of the people’s bank depends on it.

As for the mainstream media, it is high time they became aware of the many promises made by both Key and English – and their subsequent breaking. Otherwise, they too are failing the public.

National, in the meantime, has carried out the  perfect bank “heist”.

It only took eight years to accomplish.

 

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References

Fairfax Media: NZ Post to sell 45 per cent of Kiwibank for $495m cash injection

NZ Herald: English – I didn’t choose my words well

TV3 News: National hit by more secret recordings

Fairfax Media: Facebook Video – NZ Post to sell 45 per cent of Kiwibank for $495m cash injection

NZ Herald: PM pledges not to sell Kiwibank after all

Faifax Media: Key – Why I should be the PM

Otago Daily Times: Key not ruling out Kiwibank sale in future

NZ Herald: PM – no more SOEs to sell after Genesis

Fairfax Media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

NZ Treasury: Income from State Asset Sales as at May 2014

Interest.co.nz: NZ Super Fund and ACC proposed as new minority shareholders in Kiwibank

Investopedia: Credit Rating

NZ Herald: S&P cuts NZ credit rating

Radio NZ: Bill English – Kiwibank will stay 100 percent New Zealand-owned

Green Party: Greens will repurpose Kiwibank and save Kiwis hundreds of millions

Additional

Fairfax media: Kiwibank tape catches English

Scoop Media:  Bill English Talks On KiwiBank Being Sold (audio)

Other bloggers

No Right Turn: Plunder

The Daily Blog: KiwiBank another privatisation by stealth – Robbing Fred to bribe Dagg to pay John

The Dim Post: A fascinating precedent

The Standard: Kiwibank sale to NZ Super, ACC privatisation by stealth

Previous related blogposts

Westpac, Peter Dunne, & Edward Snowden

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 12: No More Asset Sales (Kind of)

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the sale of kiwibank - nz herald cartoon - john key

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 April 2016.

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Flag thoughts and settling dust – Dedicated to our esteemed Dear Leader and Audrey Young

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Preface

Due to personal circumstances (and a tussle with a ‘bug’ that seemed to take a fancy to my body), this blogpost is a couple of weeks late. Therefore, it is worth more as a “retrospective” than anything else. Apologies for the delay.

PS: The bug lost.

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Flag thoughts and settling dust – Dedicated to our esteemed Dear Leader and Audrey Young

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Process-tile-2

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The People’s Verdict

The verdict is in; the people have spoken; ‘Old Blue‘ has been retained as our current flag.

By now most will be aware of the voting results;

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second flag referendum results

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Just over 1.2 million  voters cast their ballot to retain the existing flag. That is 68,502 votes more than National party vote share (1,131,501) in the last election. If ‘Old Blue‘ was a political party, it could probably govern in it’s own right, without the second-rate hangers-on that National relies on to remain in power.

So, 1,200,003 people were not inclined to change our flag. There was no one particular reason – there were several;

  • War veterans fought, and many perished, under that flag (or, at least, commemorate ANZAC Day under it)
  • There was no popular movement for change – the two referenda were handed down from On High, and foisted upon the public
  • Some did not like the process of deciding the candidate-designs in both referenda
  • Some did not like the fact that three out of four (later, with the addition on Red Peak, five) options were eerily similar, bearing the silver fern
  • Some thought that $26 million could be better spent on health, education, housing, increasing Pharmac’s budget to buy new cancer medicines, and other more worthwhile and pressing causes
  • Some viewed it as a deliberate ploy by National to distract public attention from growing social and economic problems confronting us
  • Some did not like the Kyle Lockwood design
  • Some viewed the government’s decision to reinstate Knighthoods as contradictory to changing our flag
  • Some remembered Key’s rejection and denigration of the 2012 anti-asset sale referendum and wondered why they should support our esteemed Dear Leader’s initiative, when he so casually derided a popular, grass-roots movement to voice opposition to asset sales
  • A fair few voted against change as they saw it as a de facto referendum on John Key’s government (much like the September 1997 Compulsory Retirement Savings Scheme referenda, which many treated as a vote of No Confidence in the National-NZ First Coalition government at the time)
  • Some were not convinced of the need for change
  • Others viewed the alternatives as a “branding” exercise rather than advancing our national identity
  • And a fair few simply liked the current  ‘Old Blue‘, full stop.

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The high cost of the referendum rankled with many - especially as early childhood education budget cuts and Pharmac's inability to fund new cancer drugs was not lost on many people.

The high cost of the referendum rankled with many – especially as early childhood education budget cuts and Pharmac’s inability to fund new cancer drugs, was not lost on many people.

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The only real surprise was that the numbers voting to retain the current flag was only 56.6%. Previous public opinion polling had indicated that between 61%  and 65% opposed change. Even as recently as a few weeks ago, a UMR Poll showed 59% opting to support the status quo.

A matter of National identity

One of the most trenchant criticisms of the flag referendum process is the contradiction of Key’s government returning New Zealand to British Knighthoods.

Discussion of wider aspects of nationhood such as becoming a republic and electing our own Head of State were also muted.

On 29 October, 2014, Key maintained the aspirations of a new flag expressing our own modern,  independent identity;

“Our flag is the most important symbol of our national identity and I believe that this is the right time for New Zealanders to consider changing the design to one that better reflects our status as a modern, independent nation.”

In another example of Key’s multiplicity of opinions, his comments were contradicted two years later on 2 April this year when he uttered this eyebrow-raising assertion;

“We are at the core … a British colony and I thought there was an argument that New Zealanders could be treated in a way which reflected that.”

So much for “independent national identity”.

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Key’s restrained/rehearsed  response

On TV3’s The Nation, on 26 March, Lisa Owen interviewed our esteemed Dear Leader, John Key. His face was studiously calm and seemingly unperturbed by what was obviously a rejection of his beloved silver fern flag reform. Key’s tax-payer funded media minders had earned their salaries and trained him well.

Key’s composure was perhaps a little too perfect;

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The Nation - interview John Key - flag referendum - 26 march 2016

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During the interview, Key blamed voters for voting along “party lines”;

@ 1.22

“Well, that was because what we saw was some really big numbers that looked like they were along party lines. Seventy percent of Labour voters for instance in the polling indicated they would vote for the current New Zealand flag when it was Labour policy to change the flag via a referendum.”

Astoundingly, Key cheekily tried to re-write recent history by denying any favouritism in the flag debate;

@ 3.18

“Well, in the end, you gotta remember I didn’t back the horse. What I did was open up a process which allowed ten and a half thousand to put in a submission…”

Oh, of course, not Dear Leader. You had no preference at all, right? These images below – they are images of  your  evil duplicate, from a Parallel Universe,  right?

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john key-with-flag

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key-with-alt-flag-lapel-badge

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It was noticeable that Key had no lapel pin on his jacket-breast in the interview with Lisa Owen (nor on TVNZ’s Q+A, the following Sunday). Even after the people had spoken in a referendum promoted by him and his government, he could not bring himself to wear the mandated flag of our nation.

It will be interesting to see what pin he will be wearing in future, if any. After all, as Key himself pointed out;

@ 2.03

“..and actually now, as a country, let’s get behind our flag.”

Indeed, Dear Leader; let’s get behind our flag. And you can start by wearing it on your lapel.

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Audrey Young’s response

In examples of childish foot-stomping, petulance, Audrey Young’s piece on 25 March in the NZ Herald was hard to beat;

“It is not even a failure to persuade because Key did not campaign heavily for change.

If anything, he failed to campaign strongly enough.

He always answered questions about changing the flag but he did not lead a campaign to change it in the way the late Lloyd Morrison might have done.”

Young’s assertion that “Key did not campaign heavily for change” beggars belief. As the two images above show – along with other evidence easily available on the ‘net – Key was one of the prime movers to replace the current flag.

Young would have to have been living in a snow-cave in Antarctica; in a bathysphere at the bottom of the Marianas Trench; or a moonbase on the Dark Side of the Moon, not to have noticed Key’s cheerleading for the Kyle Lockwood flag.

“He wrongly counted on the Greens and Labour actually following their own policy and embracing the referendum rather than politicizing the process.”

Which illustrates Young’s lack of knowledge on the referendum voting patterns (as well as over-looking the fact the entire process had been politicised when Key took a personal position on which flag he  supported).

In fact, many of the electorates which voted to retain the current flag are held by National MPs;

Auckland Central (56.5% current flag, 43.2% alternative flag)

Botany (51.5%, 48.3%)

Christchurch Central (56.4%, 43.4%)

Coromandel (54.5%, 45.3%)

East Coast (57.5%, 42.3%)

Hamilton East (51.9%, 47.9%)

Hamilton West (55.2%, 44.6%)

Hunua (53.4%, 46.5%)

Invercargill (60.0%, 39.9%)

Kaikōura (53.0%, 46.8%)

Maungakiekie (59.0%, 40.8%)

Nelson (51.9%, 47.8%)

New Plymouth (50.7%, 49.1%)

North Shore (50.4%, 49.4%)

Northcote (56.1%, 43.6%)

Ōtaki (57.4%, 42.4%)

Pakuranga (53.2%, 46.7%)

Papakura (59.0%, 40.9%)

Rangitata (51.6%, 48.2%)

Rangitῑkei (56.0%, 43.9%)

Rodney (52.4%, 47.3%)

Rotorua (56.2%, 43.6%)

Taupō (53.0%, 46.8%)

Tauranga (50.1%, 49.7%)

Tukituki (56.5%, 43.3%)

Upper Harbour (55.8%, 44.0%)

Waikato (52.2%, 47.6%)

Waimakariri (51.0%, 48.9%)

Wairarapa (56.8%, 43.0%)

Waitaki (50.4%, 49.4%)

Whanganui (59% – 40.8%)

Whangarei (58.5%, 41.3%)

Even our esteemed Dear Leader’s own electorate turned against him;

Helensville (56.6%, 43.3%)

In the last election, National scored 58.39% of the Party Vote and 65.17% Electorate Vote.

So For Audrey Young to whine about Labour and the Greens not towing the official Government Party Line on this issue is childish finger-pointing and blame-gaming. Perhaps she should take it up with National’s own supporters.

After all, in National-held Invercargill, the vote was a staggering 60% to retain ‘Old Blue’. I doubt if that far-south electorate is a secret  Labour and Green stronghold and hotbed of left-wing,  anti-government  activity.

And where did Key’s support go in his own electorate?

Audrey Young’s whinging continued;

“To those who didn’t like the design of the silver fern alternative, it was the public’s choice.

To those who didn’t like any of the five finalists in the first referendum, they were the Flag Consideration’s Panel’s Choice.

To those who wanted Red Peak among the finalists, Key and the Green Party got it added and shut them up.

To those in Labour who say a new flag should not have been considered until New Zealand becomes a republic, he can say “hypocrite.”

That’s not they were saying in 2014 when Trevor Mallard released its policy saying “We believe that the time has come for a change and it is right for the issue to be put to the public.”

To those who did not want a referendum at all, did they want a choose imposed on them?

To those who thought it was a waste of money, it is not what they were saying in 2013 on the referendum for state asset sales for which the Government had received a clear mandate at the 2011 election.

To those say who say people should have been asked first if they wanted change, it was a question biased towards no change.”

It seems fairly obvious where Young stands on the flag referendum. She brooks no dissent; no contrary opinion; and certainly does not respect the will of the people.

For example, her ridiculous notion that “to those who didn’t like the design of the silver fern alternative, it was the public’s choice” – is arrant rubbish. The Kyle Lockwood option on the ballot paper was one of four  decided by the Flag Selection committee.

Of the four, three had the silver fern and could be considered nearly identical. (The fourth option – Andrew Fyfe’s Koru flag design – was so abysmal as to be a sure bet to be relegated to last position in voting preferences. No personal offense intended Mr Fyfe.)

Of the four options, a silver fern was bound to win. The public had few real choices in the matter.

Audrey Young left out one “To Those“, which I will offer in the form of one of her own statements, slightly amended;

To those who fume at the referendum result, get over it!

Key got his referendum. He simply did not get the result he wanted. Audrey Young insults voters with her whiney little tanty.

This time – unlike the referendum on State Assets which he thumbed his nose at – he cannot ignore the Will of the People. Not unless he wants to lose the 2017 election, and probably the next one or two after that.

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Other matters to consider: 1 – Similarity

Perhaps the Number One argument in favour of changing our flag was “Old Blues” similarity to Australia’s flag;

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anzac-flags

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Which is not a unique situation, as Hungary and Italy also have similar flags;

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hungary-italy-flags

 

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As do France and Russia

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French Russian flags

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And try remembering which is which when it comes to Indonesia and Poland!

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Polish Indonesian flags

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Changing a flag because it bears a similarity to another nation’s emblem does not – on the face of it – seem a necessity when so many others are striking in their sameness.

Quite the contrary, if any two nations on the face of this  little planet have a reason to share a similar design – it is Australia and New Zealand.

After all, we have a similar pattern of colonisation;  shared history, language, culture, values, economy, and we laud our ANZAC tradition. To an outsider, there is little appreciable difference between Australians and New Zealanders (except we don’t have an accent).

Why shouldn’t our flags be similar as well?

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Other matters to consider: 2 – Stubborness

By now, our elected representatives should know that New Zealanders don’t like being told what to do. Our stubborn streak of “sticking it to the man” was epitomised in that 1981 cult classic, “Goodbye Pork Pie“. The entire movie (in case the title wasn’t sufficient to give it away) was a middle finger raised at the increasingly autocratic National government of the day. (What is it about National governments that tend toward authoritarianism?)

The flag referendum, unlike it’s more successful predecessor, the firefighters’ referendum in 1995, and the anti-asset sales referendum in 2012, was not a grass-roots movement by the people.

It was handed down, from on-high, and by golly the government would demand that we vote on this matter.

People did not want the referendum,  and the cost – at a time of cuts to many social services and lack of funding for new anti-cancer drugs – rankled with many.

But vote we did. Over two million New Zealanders.

Not because we wanted to.

But so that a flag change would not be carried by a minority who were either Key-sycophants, or disliked our current flag sufficiently to vote for change, regardless of dirty political manipulations at play.

So, vote we did.

And we sent a clear message to the National government as clearly as a certain little yellow mini did, thirtyfive years ago. The message, in case anyone missed it: stop fart-arsing around!

Bolshie lot, aren’t we?

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Other matters to consider: 3 – Real Change

If New Zealand is going to embrace  change and adopt a new flag, it must actually mean something. It must mean a new start to building our own nationhood.

Otherwise, any flag-change – without meaningful change to back it – simply becomes a re-branding exercise. Which is precisely what our esteemed Dear Leader seems to have had in mind; a re-brand rather than a republic.

It was no coincidence that Key’s own preference was for the Silver Fern – a commercialised brand symbol on everything from the All Blacks to Air New Zealand.

This was a re-branding exercise for NZ Inc, and  many (if not most) people saw through it.  John Key’s seeming lack of understanding the meaning of  real nation-building (see: “A matter of National identity” above) doomed his pet project from the start.

John Key is not the right person to effect this kind of sea-change in our country’s destiny. He never was.

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Other matters to consider: 4 – Where were Maori, our Treaty partners?

During this entire exercise, very little – if any – inclusion of Maori culture made it to the final five designs. It is like they never existed.

And yet, there were many offerings that the Flag Selection panel could have chosen from;

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possible maori flag designs

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Instead, the final offerings to the public were Pakeha notions of flag-design.

Perhaps it explains why the Maori electorates voted to retain ‘Old Blue‘. For them, it would be “change” that was no change at all. Sticking with the current flag, albeit with elements of musket-enforced British colonialism, was little different to alternatives on offer.

In this matter, the Flag Consideration panel was an abject failure, tainted with mono-culturalism.

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Key “get’s Behind our flag” – by ignoring it!

Remember how our esteemed Dear Leader said on TV3’s The Nation, on 26 March,

“…and actually now, as a country, let’s get behind our flag.”

This is how he backed up his words on 5 April, during a press meeting;

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Helen Clark 'The pragmatism and focus I have are what the UN needs right now' - John Key

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What is on his lapel? Nothing.

That is how Key “gets behind our flag”.

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Final Word

The final word on this saga has to go to out-going Governor-General, Jerry Mateparae, who, on 28 March opined on Radio NZ;

“Sometimes we’ve got distracted, and that’s the nature of politics, and that’s also possibly the nature of such an important emblem of who we are – this represents us…”

(Audio link)

Rich irony indeed; the Establishment’s figurehead complains that people were distracted from a referendum that many considered a distraction in the first place.

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flag

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References

Electoral Commission: Second Referendum on the New Zealand Flag – Preliminary Result

Electoral Commission: 2014 General Election Official Count Results – Overall Status

Good Returns: Do not file New Zealand Superannuation just yet

TVNZ News: Two-thirds against changing flag, poll shows

NZ Herald: Poll indicates flag unlikely to change

Radio NZ:  Current flag the favourite – poll

Beehive: First steps taken towards flag referendum

TV3: The Nation – interview with John Key

Radio NZ: Media commentator Gavin Ellis (audio) (alt. link)

NZ Herald: Audrey Young – John Key a loser on flag referendum but not a failure

NZ Herald: How did New Zealand vote?

Wikipedia: Helensville – 2014 Election

Fairfax media: Andrew Fyfe’s Koru flag design

NZ Herald: UK forgets NZ ties, Key tells Cameron

Otago Daily Times: Asset sales referendum ‘waste of money’

TV1 News: Helen Clark: ‘The pragmatism and focus I have are what the UN needs right now’

Radio NZ:  Flag debate – Politics distracted people from real meaning – Sir Jerry (Audio link)

Other Bloggers

Bowalley Road: Whoops And Cheers For Democracy’s Flag

Bowalley Road: Was Class The Decisive Factor In Determining The Flag Referendum’s Outcome?

Pundit: God Save the Flag vs God Defend the Flag?

No Right Turn: A referendum on John Key

The Daily Blog: Not a bad result for opponents of the colonial flag

The Daily Blog: Battle Lines: Occasional Dispatches From the Class War

The Daily Blog: Key’s Colonial Daze

The Standard: Flag distraction result today

The Standard: What the flag vote means

Previous related blogposts

Letter to Radio NZ: Key, the flag, and irrelevancies

Letter to the editor – a new angle in the flag debate

Flying the flags of discontent – MOBILISE!

The Flag Referendum – A strategy for Calm Resistance

John Key is a principled man – except when a photo op arises (A Photo Essay)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 April 2016.

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