Red Peak flag Bill to be passed by Parliament
By Peter Wilson and Sarah Robson
The Red Peak flag Bill is about to be passed by Parliament.
The Government has a solid majority and the flag will go into the referendum, but four hours of debate under urgency last night did not get it through all the stages.
MPs are due back at 9am today to finish the job.
The bill allows the Red Peak design to be added to the four other alternatives chosen by the Flag Consideration Panel.
Labour is supporting the bill but attacked the Government during the first and second reading debates.
MPs accused Prime Minister John Key of reneging on an assurance that the law would not be changed and that he had no intention of adding the Red Peak design to the referendum choices.
And they berated him for picking up the Green Party's Bill, saying the cabinet could have made the change "at the stroke of a pen".
Labour wants a question added to the referendum asking voters whether they want to change the flag, and it will try to change the bill this morning.
It will not succeed because the Government has made a deal with the Greens, and they will vote with National against any attempt by Labour to amend the bill.
The Bill passed its first reading by 107 votes to 12 and its second reading by 109 votes to 12.
NZ First is the only party opposing it.
The party has never accepted the referendum process and now it has found another reason to argue it should not take place.
Its MPs say the Red Peak design is very similar to one used on German sentry boxes in World War II.
"That's how close it is to a Nazi design," said Denis O'Rourke, as he waved a picture of a sentry box.
"It has absolutely nothing to do with New Zealand people or this country's culture."
The first postal referendum will be held between November 20 and December 11, when voters will rank the designs.
The top-ranked design will be run off against the current flag in a second referendum in April next year.