Bennett Morgan writes
It’s perhaps John Key’s weakest selling-point among his predominantly white, male, middle class conservative support base; changing the New Zealand flag.
Polls in 2010 right the way through to 2013 indicated a majority of the public backed a change. That has since fallen back to just 35%, and in a TVNZ poll just 28% expressed support for a change. The most recent poll (October) has support for a flag change at an all-time low; 19%, but this includes undecided people (37%).
So what has inspired the change in heart? John Key would have peered over the 2010-2013 poll indications and seen support for a flag change at the all-time high of 61%. Votes for National aplenty.
As soon as he put his support behind a flag change, public support for the idea dropped 33 points to just 28%.
This, to any observer, may suggest a bitterly unpopular Prime Minister who wanted to go with the momentum of Kiwis and support a change.Voters were in turn put off, and decided not to side with the PM. That wasn’t the case.
What really put people off was the flag referendum.
This is what Andrew Little should focus on.
The public have been furious over this referendum for two main reasons. The first of those being the cost. The so-called ‘incredibly stupid’ way in which the referendums are planned out, will take place over two respective years and cost the taxpayer $26,000,000.
A price which could fund more than a quarter of decile 1-2 schools in New Zealand or nourish 67,500 children with fresh school lunches, potentially depleting New Zealand’s shameful rate of child poverty.
Greece, with an unemployment rate of 25% currently has 40% of its children growing up in impoverished conditions. In New Zealand, where the unemployment rate sits on about 5.5%, we have 25% of children in poverty.
Compare this to countries which have a closer unemployment rate to us. Norway’s unemployment rate is about 4%, and similarly close to that number, 5% of their children are growing up in poverty.
What this means, crucially, is Norway’s jobs are paying enough money to their workers so that they can feed themselves and their children, for the most part. Not the case with New Zealand.
The fact that Key opted for a flag referendum, seemingly for popularity, is outrageous and proves his warped sense of what matters to New Zealanders.
If Andrew Little and the Opposition Labour/Green/NZ First block fail to capitalise on this gaping hole in Key’s so-far clean slate as Prime Minister in 2015, they will suffer the consequences.
They must start talking the cost of this referendum and the awfully obscure way in which it is spread across not one but two referendums, potentially costing us even more.
And let’s not forget the flag change is strongly opposed by Key’s traditional country-residing, conservative male voter stronghold whom could easily be swayed to the likes of the Conservatives and NZ First. It is easy to outrage this demographic, and Little and Peters would be well advised in doing so. This means traveling out to the wop-wops, talking about what the flag and what it means to New Zealanders and asking what the real issues are in rural New Zealand. What do they want their taxpayer money spent on? Drought relief? Rural roading upgrades?
There is room to take advantage of this disenfranchised demographic. Key is viewed as a urban-dwelling liberal who turned against traditional National values on a number of issues, including his support of gay marriage.
And it is clear to see why Key supports gay marriage, not only because it’s the ‘hip’ thing to do (ever since Obama declared his support), but because he envisions a future in which National is dominant in the liberal urban city centres of our major dwellings, and in the conservative countryside; simply because no one else has presented themselves as a meaningful alternative.
It is obvious Key doesn’t inherently support gay marriage. Sad as it is, it is common for MPs to vote on legislation for popularity, rather than their core values they were elected on.
Key opposed civil unions as a National backbencher under the leadership of Don Brash.
Little and Peters need to re-connect with the rural battlers. Whatever urban liberal voter who may be put off by this should be tactfully drawn to the Greens, who have some tough decisions to make over their future leader.