Labour's flag bill bid blocked

  • 16/09/2015
Labour Party leader Andrew Little (Simon Wong)
Labour Party leader Andrew Little (Simon Wong)

Labour leader Andrew Little has failed in his bid to force the Government to change the flag referendum process.

He attempted today to introduce a bill to Parliament that would have changed the laws covering the referendum.

Government MPs blocked it by objecting to his request.

Mr Little wanted his bill to pass through all its stages today.

It would have inserted a question in the first flag referendum asking voters whether they wanted to change the flag, and also adding the Red Peak design to the ballot.

An objection from a single MP is enough to stop a member's bill being introduced.

There's no sign of a breakthrough in the impasse over whether another flag design should be added to the options that are going to be put to voters in a referendum.

Mr Key and Mr Little haven't set a time for a meeting, and it doesn't seem likely they will.

Mr Key has said he's prepared to add the Red Peak design to the ballot paper, but Labour would have to agree to that and support the referendum process.

Mr Little's position is that Red Peak should be added, but he wants voters to also be asked a yes/no question about whether they want to change the flag.

However, he's told Mr Key by letter that he's prepared to meet "in good faith and without preconditions".

The letter does mention a yes/no question, and says it would be a way of restoring public confidence in the referendum.

Under Mr Little's scenario, a no vote on changing the flag would abort the whole process.

Mr Key says Labour is playing politics.

"They keep wanting to relitigate the issue about yes or no... and there's no compromise from us on that," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"We're happy to compromise on the potential inclusion of Red Peak, but Labour just keeps playing games with this."

Mr Key confirmed Labour had sought a meeting and that it wants to discuss the yes/no issue.

"We won't meet if those are their conditions," he said.

"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."

The way things stand, voters will choose their favourite 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.

Minister's flag pin causes a row

MPs are so hyped up about the flag that there's been a row in Parliament over a minister's lapel pin.

NZ First's Ron Mark today complained to Speaker David Carter about Conservation Minister Maggie Barry.

"Is it appropriate for a person to wear an advertising lapel pin which is one of the flag designs?" he asked.

House leader Gerry Brownlee said it was up to MPs to decide what they wore in their lapels.

"It can well be considered a piece of jewellery - I notice someone on the member's side wearing a silver fern, that could well be considered advertising."

He didn't think Parliament should "get too precious" about lapel pins.

Mr Carter agreed.

"I don't consider for a moment that the wearing of a lapel badge is in any way advertising or breaching the rules of this house."