New Zealand First has long been renowned as the party of direct democracy. As you'll remember from such controversial issues as Asset Sales, NZ's move from the Privy Council to a Supreme Court, and even our bills to legalize Euthanasia ... where there's a danger that the MPs and Parliament of our country will refuse to listen to the will of the people, we're straight in with our demand for a Referendum.
So surely, we'd be unanimous in our enthusiasm for the government's proposed flag-change referendum, right?
We support referendums because they offer a genuine choice to our voters, and a powerful tool with which to communicate to elected leaders what we *actually* want in a situation.
Key's vote on the flag, by contrast, is exactly the opposite of this.
The way it's been set up, we don't get to express a choice about whether or not we actually think we should change the flag.
Instead, we're presented with an array of options and asked to pick the one we like most. Then, that flag is pitted against the one we've got now in another referendum some time later.
That's not choice, and that's not how it should be. Instead, it's a carefully stage-managed attempt at coercing support for a flag-change from the New Zealand public that turns engagement with the whole process into a fait accompli.
In situations such as these, sometimes the only winning move is not to play.
That's why NZ First Leader Winston Peters is urging New Zealanders to send the government a message.
When you go to vote in the first flag referendum, don't tick any of the options on offer.
Instead, simply write "I support the current flag".
The number of defaced ballots received is recorded; and it's pretty much the only way to use your vote in the first referendum to tell the government what you actually think.
In the mean-time, continue to raise hell in public about this issue. The Nats are trying to take away your voice through railroading your vote.
And even though it's a symbolic issue they're doing it over ... that's important enough to mandate civil disobedience on your behalf.
Whatever you might think of the flag or the flag debate - it's our democracy that matters, and what's at stake.
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