24 Sep 2015

Red Peak likely to be fifth option

5:42 am on 24 September 2015

Red Peak is on the verge of becoming the fifth option for an alternative flag as Parliament continues to debate this morning.

The bill, originally presented by the Greens, was introduced under urgency yesterday, and Parliament will continue to debate it clause by clause when the House resumes at 9am.

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Photo: RNZ

The Red Peak design began to gain public support after the four final designs were announced earlier this month.

New Zealand First blocked an attempt by the Greens to introduce the New Zealand Flag Referendums Amendment Bill.

But the legislation was hastily picked up by the government, and within hours, Parliament had gone into urgency to debate it.

That debate was characterised by bitter exchanges, and accusations New Zealand was now considering a flag design which had Nazi symbolism.

New Zealand First MP Denis O'Rourke told MPs the Red Peak design bore an uncanny resemblance to Nazi insignia on sentry boxes in World War II.

"People will make mischief of it, and we will be ridiculed overseas and in exactly that sort of way if New Zealand was to adopt that kind of awful monstrosity of a design for the New Zealand flag."

This view was condemned by National's Tim MacIndoe who said Mr O'Rourke's comments had hit a new low.

"There is absolutely no one in this house sir, not one member, who has any Nazi sympathies whatsoever."

Sponsor of the original Green Party bill, Gareth Hughes, also objected to the Nazi comparison, calling Mr O'Rourke's comments scurrilous.

By cutting a deal with National, the Greens alienated their political ally, Labour, in the process.

Senior Labour MP Trevor Mallard told the House the Greens had failed to live up to their own standards.

"They are the party who pretend to be transparent, who pretend to be straightforward, but they could not stand up in the House and say we've made an agreement with the National Party not to support the Labour Party amendments.

"And that's, you know, we would have disagreed with them but it would have been honest and straight-forward."

Though Labour supported the bill, deputy Prime Minister Bill English relished the opportunity to taunt his opponents.

"Given their vindictive, politicised, manipulative DNA, it's quite possible they'll try and overturn the result, whereas I know the Greens wouldn't"

Mr English's comments drew a sharp response from Labour's Grant Robertson.

"A nasty, patronising, graceless speech. And the Green Party might choose to reflect on the tone of the speech that Mr English just gave this house and just what it is that they've created."

The Greens justified the need for urgency saying with the first referendum in about six weeks, the Electoral Commission needed time to adjust the papers before they were printed.

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