Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

Read Post

Legal Beagle: The flag referendum: complicating your decision

106 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 Newer→ Last

  • Paul Brislen,

    (Takes deep breath) I have to disagree with you on one point, Graeme, regarding the process.

    There have been complaints about the flag consideration and referendum process. There are other ways we could have done it (I supported one at the select committee) but this is fair way of doing it.

    In this day and age a flag is something of an anachronism. We no longer need a rallying point around a piece of fabric to differentiate our side from the others. The fog of war doesn't descend in quite the same way, so the need for a banner is pretty much gone.

    A modern flag is a representation of what a nation stands for. It's a way of saying who we are as a people and the one thing this whole process lacked was any discussion around this point at all.

    Legend has it (that is, I read it somewhere on the internet so it must be true) that when Apple first approached Belkin to make accessories for its new device Belkin wasn't allowed to know what the device (the iPod) did. Instead they were shown a set of connectors so they could work on devices that would connect via the correct port. Belkin is supposed to have pointed out that they won't know what accessories to make until they know the device's purpose and that caused much consternation in the Apple camp.

    I don't know, it's probably rubbish but I like the story and can't help but see the parallels with our flag process. We're being asked to define how we represent ourselves without first deciding what "we" are.

    I guess it's not the process itself which I have a problem with, it's the lack of a wider context. Maybe you were right all along, Graeme.

    I'll be voting to keep the current flag on the basis that if we vote for the new one that's it, our one chance to chose a flag is done for at least a generation. Can you imagine the fun that would be had if we decide to revisit our new flag choice in 20 years time? No, this is it for a long time to come, possibly for ever because the need for a flag is pretty much nonexistent.

    Voting for no change now means we can have another go when we decide to discuss who we are and what it means to be a New Zealander and that's a debate worth having.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 200 posts Report

  • Tom Semmens,

    The flag will come up again when we become a republic. However, you only get one chance to look John Key in the eye and kick him in the balls. You all know what to do.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report

  • izogi,

    Because, well, you’ve only got two options: Hitler or Stalin? Bush or Gore? Kang or Kodos? If there’s someone you like: great! If not, vote for whichever you prefer, however unpalatable your options might be.

    Just to link to the obvious.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1142 posts Report

  • linger,

    Had we undertaken a different public process for choosing an alternative flag to run against the 1902 flag, I think it’s highly likely the alternative flag being offered in this referendum would have been Kyle Lockwood’s design

    Probably so – but it would have been running against a wider range of alternative designs, rather than just the ferns (in which label I include the koru) the panel initially selected. The selection would not have been so obviously manipulated to lead to Key’s prior expressed personal preference. The selection of a Lockwood fern against genuine alternatives would have had some meaning.

    And of course, the order of referendum questions makes a difference too. Choosing a new flag without first deciding we’re going to change from the old one asks a hypothetical question, which generally gives unreliable results.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1944 posts Report

  • Andrew Geddis,

    We could have had a team of designers included on the Flag Consideration panel, but as long as they still sought public input, I can’t see they could have excluded the Lockwood design from the long list, or the short list.

    True this. We also could have had some truly awful (imho) "designer approved" options included. And yes - I do mean even more awful than the 4 "panel approved" choices.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2007 • 206 posts Report

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The "designer approved" thing bugs me. Basically, a flag is Art. There is a small aspect of the choice which is objective: can it be identified from a distance? how many pixels are needed to make it distinguishable? but beyond that, it's all subjective.

    The question "is this flag any good" falls into the same domain as "is cubism/dubstep/conceptual art" any good - it's a matter of personal opinion and fashion.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • Marion Ogier,

    Why does this have to be our last chance to be offered the opportunity to change our flag? Surely change can come from the bottom up as well as the top down. People are probably flegged out by now but I think the process has kicked loose some thinking and debating. Maybe there will be a groundswell for change that will make it's way through petitions etc to get Parliament to start a better process e.g with real designers involved and politicians shutting up? Who knows. Its up to the people really.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2010 • 20 posts Report

  • Steve Ballantyne,

    Can you imagine the fun that would be had if we decide to revisit our new flag choice in 20 years time?

    What, when the thing is looking more than 30 years out of date?

    That's part of the trouble with the Lockwood/Weetbix design – it's more than a little last century, and it follows branding principles rather than vexilogical ones. Are we getting enough cut-through? The fern has good recognition, but let's have a Southern Cross as well, to draw in the oldie demographic. And a splash of black in the corner, to cement in those rugby channel M3s.

    Meanwhile, elsewhere the design community is paring back corporate logos to a sleek minimum and the Weetbix design is looking unpleasantly busy even within its own design-y parameters. Does even Sanitarium still use it? Which isn't to say we should go for something like a small Southern Cross in the centre of an azure field, plain – because who knows, design, unlike vexilology or even heraldry is fickle and in another twenty years paisley or something may be back. Have you taken a look at the current South African flag? It looks like the logo of a railway company.

    I heard somebody say that an awful lot of countries have tricolour flags, and perhaps we should too. Unfortunately the obvious choice of colours for our flag would be Māori red, white and black – a combination rendered impossible by the Nazis.

    My preference is that we should adopt the United Tribes flag, which comes prepacked with plenty of historical significance but mysteriously didn't even make the Flag Committee's long list. They must have deliberately excluded it.

    Anyway, it's too late for that now. We have a choice, between the old and fraught or the less-old and inappropriate. I know which one I'm going for.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 27 posts Report

  • Alec Morgan, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    where’s the “like” button when you need it…

    there has been so much dancing around on the flag referenda, too many took seriously what was was only poked in fun by the PM; uncoupled from the republican debate this has been an attempted textbook manufacturing consent exercise for a rebranding

    there is ample fear and loathing for the Union Jack, alongside some liking for it too, and one concern is that the British Imperialist colonisation will go down the memory hole in this post colonial era before Māori get justice, a million NZ born live offshore and new arrivals are largely unconcerned with indigenous struggles

    Tokerau Beach • Since Nov 2006 • 124 posts Report

  • dave stewart,

    And what about the tradition in NZ for low participation in postal referendums? I suspect that this factor will work very much in the favour of the new flag camp. Because will not many who dislike the idea of a new flag, or have issues with the process tend to express their discontent by abstaining from the referendum? Whereas anybody committed to supporting change will be very motivated to participate.

    Since Aug 2014 • 37 posts Report

  • Barry -,

    I shall be voting for the new flag. I don't particularly like the idea of flags and haven't stood for a national anthem since watching the movie "The Bedsittingroom" in about the year 1980.

    I respect all the arguments against it and I would probably vote against it if I thought it would lead to faster change of leadership.

    But basically the reasons are:

    1. There will not be another chance to change the flag in my lifetime.
    2. I really dislike having the union jack on the flag
    3. the new flag is significantly better (IMO) than the current one.
    4. people who say that the new flag violates some principles are making stuff up. Some of the most loved flags would also violate these principles.
    5. All the arguments put forward against the new flag were used against the current canadian flag. That grew on people over time, and I think the current option would also gain popularity.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2015 • 7 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Barry -,

    ...and haven't stood for a national anthem since watching the movie "The Bedsittingroom" in about the year 1980.

    Sounds about a decade late. Standing for the queen was a distant memory in 1980. BTW The Bed-Sitting Room featured a revised post-apocalyptic national anthem.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • Alex Stone,

    Thank you for your thoughtful post Graeme.

    But there is one thing I must disagree with. You write:

    "...but Kyle Lockwood’s fern design has been a popular alternative flag for quite some time."

    In all the public events I have been to in New Zealand in 30 years of living in this country, I have never seen this design been spontaneously displayed.

    The alternative flags I have seen are the United Tribes, Tino Rangatiratanga, the Hundertwasser Koru, the 'Fighting Kiwi', the Silver Fern on plain black - never the Lockwood design in either its red/blue or black/blue versions.

    I believe we haven't looked closely enough at the symbolic force of colour in this alternative flag selection process.

    The most natural word association with 'black and blue' is domestic violence.This is a very unfortunate link, for a country with such appalling high levels of domestic and sexual violence.

    Would we be happy explaining the symbolism of this flag's colours to their children?

    (Yes, I am a designer/visual artist/writer who has devoted much of my career to the area of understanding the way visual language works)

    Since Nov 2015 • 2 posts Report

  • Ross Mason,

    Is it the most votes wins or the % of votes cast?

    If informal votes are counted as part of total votes cast then I would vote informal. That makes it a 3 way vote. If >50% is informal that says stick it up ya jacksy.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Paul Brislen,

    this is it for a long time to come, possibly for ever because the need for a flag is pretty much nonexistent.

    Beyond sportsing, I don't see it getting much use either. But then I just do not care about flegs myself. Never have. Like our Ben, I won't be voting. I may be washing my hair instead.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • linger, in reply to Ross Mason,

    Alas, “informal votes” cannot win, because it isn't a flag choice, so isn't within the scope of the referendum question. As the site puts it:

    The flag that receives the most votes in this final referendum will be the official flag of New Zealand.

    (Also "informal votes" is not really a single category, as there are many different ways of expressing an informal vote … even if most of them should be interpreted as “stick it up ya jacksy”.)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1944 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Have another look at the longlist of flags designed by actual designers, and compare it with the samey lot that the fleg panel published. And that's with most professional designers abstaining because of concerns about the process.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • linger, in reply to Sacha,

    Note also the wildly misleading spin of the panel’s page: “Your chance to decide”. We never got a chance to decide: not from the full range of submissions, and not even from among their strapped-chicken shitty shortlist of 40.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1944 posts Report

  • Sacha,

    Found a fascinating fisking of early NZ flag history.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Sacha,

    They're pretty patterns. Deciding that one of them is *better* than the other is entirely a matter of personal taste, fashion, and coherence with various other flags. Personally, I find the ones that don't play, like the flags of Brazil or the state of California, better because of their originality, but that's just my opinion.

    Incidentally, there is no reason to have a flag panel. One could have had a website that presented each voter with a sample of four flags from all those submitted, and produced from that (assuming reasonable turnout) a statistically respectable ranking to generate a shortlist.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • izogi, in reply to Ross Mason,

    I’m being pedantic here, but the current NZ flag doesn’t need the most votes to win. It only requires a tie to be declared as having the greatest number of votes.

    On that, I have a legal question. Does the New Zealand Flag Referendums Act bind the government to carrying out the result of the referendum? Or does it only bind the government to holding a referendum and announce the result? I haven’t looked in great detail but so far I can’t only see the latter and not the former.

    It’s hard to imagine the result being ignored, but in a weird situation like a Tie I could imagine controversy around a line which says “the current New Zealand Flag is to be taken to have received the greatest number of votes” even when it didn’t. More likely, if informal votes were extremely high, or if the turnout were extremely low, it could call into question how the government should react to the declared result.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1142 posts Report

  • Myles Thomas,

    I'm willing to accept that many people like the silver fern and the southern cross and that Lockwood's shallow symbolism appealed to many Kiwis. As such if most people like it, I can accept these two symbols on our flag, but what ruins his design is the... design. It's poor. The fern is too big and munty looking. The stars are way too big too. These things are what make this flag a fail, and by extension anyone waving it.

    This is the fault of the process where the flag panel had to choose only from the entries all designed on word for Windows. The flag panel should've had the opportunity to take those basic ideas and rework them so they're better. Ie make the fern better, shrink the stars back a little, get a deeper blue rather than from a basic computer palette.

    In this way the process was flawed.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 130 posts Report

  • Trevor Nicholls, in reply to Myles Thomas,

    get a deeper blue

    Yes; I didn't like the Lockwood designs particularly and I strongly resent the way the PM has appeared to be gaming the process, but the first time I saw fabric versions of the old flag and the black Lockwood flying side by side my overwhelming reaction was simply "oh no, that's a really naff blue".

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 325 posts Report

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Barry -,

    5. All the arguments put forward against the new flag were used against the current canadian flag. That grew on people over time, and I think the current option would also gain popularity.

    A big difference is that the Canadian flag passes the test of “less is more”, as do the flags of South Africa, Japan, France, Italy, and the USA. The Lockwood flag doesn’t – it practically screams out “designed by committee”. And when the PM concern-trolled for support for the Lockwood flag on RNZ, he basically reinforced perceptions of it being a vanity project.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report

  • linger, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    N.B. the Canadian flag design passes that test now only because it has been progressively simplified over time.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1944 posts Report

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

This topic is closed.