Flag discussion derailed by war of words
By Peter Wilson
A war of words threatens to sink any chance of a cross-party compromise on the flag referendum.
Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader Andrew Little were planning to meet for "good faith" discussions but they can't agree on what to talk about.
The issue is whether the Red Peak flag design should be added to the four that will be put to voters in a referendum.
Mr Little wants it in, Mr Key says he's prepared to put it in, but that's where compatibility ends.
Mr Key says Labour must agree to support the referendum process as it is, Mr Little wants a yes/no question added so voters can say whether or not they want to change the flag.
"They keep wanting to relitigate the yes/no issue... and there's no compromise on that," Mr Key said yesterday.
"I'm more than happy to wave an olive branch - if Red Peak doesn't get on the ballot paper, the sole person responsible is Andrew Little."
Mr Little doesn't see it that way and he's now accusing Mr Key of putting preconditions on a meeting.
"This has been his project, his process, his priority for this term - trying to blame Labour for the botch-up is breathtakingly arrogant."
Mr Little says Mr Key doesn't need Labour's agreement to put Red Peak on the ballot paper.
"He could do that tomorrow simply by sending the finalists back to the Flag Consideration Panel who could substitute Red Peak."
The way things stand, voters will choose their favourite flag from the four designs that have been chosen by the flag panel, with the winning design going into a run-off against the current flag in a second referendum.
Since the four chosen flags were published, there has been a surge of support for the inclusion of a fifth - the Red Peak design.
It's a red, blue, black and white triangular work by Xero design director Aaron Dustin.
An online petition calling for it to be a fifth option has attracted more than 51,000 supporters.