Tag Archives: john key

And the most important election of 2016 will be…

silverfern
In one of 2016’s more whimsical votes, New Zealanders will choose whether to change its flag to this design, featuring both the silver fern and the Southern Cross constellation. (Kyle Lockwood)

Though there’s a delightful array of global elections coming in 2016, the most important will most certainly not be New Zealand’s final referendum on changing its flag. new zealand icon

Nevertheless, it might well be the most fun.

For the past month, New Zealand’s voters have been asked to choose from among five options (narrowed down from a larger finalist field of 40 designs) in a postal-based referendum that began on November 20 and ended on December 11. Less than 50% of eligible voters took part in the voting.

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RELATED: Will New Zealand get a new flag later this year?

RELATED: Four finalists emerge in New Zealand flag referendum

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The winner, by a very narrow margin, was a one of three designs to feature the silver fern, a symbol that, increasingly since the end of the 19th century, has become associated with New Zealand — on its coins and its coat of arms, on the logo of its national football team. The silver fern, cyathea dealbata, is a species endemic to New Zealand.

The ubiquity of the silver fern in three of the original four finalists drew so much criticism from anti-fern proponents that the flag panel actually added a fifth design, a stylized ‘red peak’ to the list of choices (though like the other two designs, it polled far behind in single digits). Continue reading And the most important election of 2016 will be…

Four finalists emerge in New Zealand flag referendum

Four-promo

New Zealand moved one step closer on Monday to getting a new flag — when the four finalists in its contest to design a new flag were announced.new zealand icon

Though it’s perhaps not the most pressing policy issue for New Zealand, the contest to determine whether to replace New Zealand’s flag has attracted an international following. A special commission, choosing from among 40 longlisted finalists, narrowed the selection to just four.

New Zealand’s voters, between November 20 and December 11, will rank the four finalists. Later in 2016, voters will choose between the current flag and the winner of this winter’s vote to determine the best challenger. For a country as wealthy as New Zealand, it’s a sign of the country’s prosperity that it can spend $25.7 million on a protracted debate about whether to change its national flag.

Many citizens, however, seem unimpressed by the debate or even annoyed with prime minister John Key for pushing the choice. Key, the leader of the conservative National Party, and reelected in September 2014 to a third term, actually argues that changing New Zealand’s flag, which currently features the British Union Jack and the ‘southern cross’ constellation (just like Australia’s, which has caused some confusion over the years) would boost New Zealand’s international recognition, especially if the flag incorporates the silver fern, which has in recent decades become the country’s national symbol.

Critics also argue that the country has more important matters at hand — from the ongoing efforts to rebuild Christchurch, New Zealand’s second city, after a devastating 2011 earthquake to the issues of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

Nevertheless, the fight over a new flag has entered a new crucial phase — one in which many Kiwis believe that none of the panel’s finalists are particularly great. Three of the finalists incorporate the silver fern, and two of them also retain New Zealand’s red southern cross. The fourth and final option incorporates a koru, a spiral shape based on a coiled silver fern that is an important shape in the culture of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori.

Black-and-white-fern-primary Silver-fern-red-white-and-blue Silver-fern-black-white-and-blue Koru-black-primary

How Kim Dotcom made a boring Kiwi election interesting

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There was never much doubt that John Key would win a third term as New Zealand’s prime minister in the face of a hapless New Zealand Labour Party that has struggled to find a compelling leader.new zealand icon

Although he didn’t win any seats in New Zealand’s House of Representatives after the September 20 general election, Kim Dotcom (pictured above) managed to turn an otherwise boring election into a rollicking debate over Internet freedom and surveillance in the digital era.

How did a German-born fugitive fighting extradition to the United States become the sensation of the New Zealand general election? And why did, NZ$ 4 million (around US$ 3.25 million) in campaign spending later, does the Internet sensation have nothing to show for his initial foray into New Zealand’s national politics?

Dotcom formed the Internet Party in March. By July, he announced it would ally with the left-wing MANA Movement, an alternative indigenous party founded by former MP and former Māori Party member Hone Harawira in 2011. The two groups, however, always made for strange political bedfellows. It was never incredibly clear how Dotcom, with his agenda of international Internet freedom, found common cause with Harawira.

As recently as early September, Internet-MANA was winning 3.5% of voter support, which turned out to be Dotcom’s campaign high-water mark. By the time voters actually got around to voting, they only gave Internet-MANA 1.26% of the national party vote, not enough to deliver even a single seat, and not enough to reelect Harawira in the Te Tai Tokerau constituency.

Dotcom accepted full blame for the defeat after the election, acknowledging that he had become an easy target for his political opponents:

Internet Party leader Laila Harre has admitted that the gamble her party took with Mana had not worked. It follows the party’s founder, Kim Dotcom, last night saying Internet-Mana had lost support because of him.

“The brand Kim Dotcom was poisoned … and I did not see that before the last couple of weeks,” he said as results from New Zealand election 2014 rolled in last night.

Key said after the election that it’s now time for Dotcom to ‘go away:’

“I think a lot of middle New Zealand rejected the notion of a group of foreigners coming in and looking like they wanted to have a very heavy influence on a general election that is New Zealand’s election.”

Dotcom’s future remains murky amid efforts by US authorities to have him extradited on criminal copyright infringement charges related to his now-shuttered Megaupload website. Continue reading How Kim Dotcom made a boring Kiwi election interesting

Key leads National Party to easy reelection in New Zealand

john key

New Zealand’s voters didn’t have a chance to vote on a new flag during Saturday’s general elections, but they emphatically delivered prime minister John Key a third term in government.new zealand icon

Key (pictured above) led the center-right National Party to a majority government, winning 61 seats in the country’s unicameral, 121-member House of Representatives, the first such majority government since 1993, when the country still used a first-past-the-post voting system. New Zealand today uses instead a mixed-member proportional representation system.

NZ House 2014Though the campaign featured more political scandal and innuendo about surveillance than policy discussion, Key has in two terms amassed a considerably solid record. In his first term, he helped to steady New Zealand’s economy in the depths of the global financial crisis, and he’s maintained generally solid GDP growth — around 2.5% in 2013 — in the face of a Chinese economic slowdown.

In that time, Key raised the goods and sales tax from 12.5% to 15%, but he also lowered personal income tax rates and increased the minimum wage from NZ$ 12 to NZ$ 14.25. In his second term, Key initiated a program of privatization of several government interests by reducing public ownership in several companies, including Air New Zealand and several energy enterprises. Key also managed the reconstruction efforts of Christchurch, New Zealand’s second-most populous city, which was severely damaged by a 2011 earthquake.

He has also been keen on developing stronger ties with the United States as a champion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and of the 2010 Wellington Declaration, which ushered in greater cooperation between the United States and New Zealand.

Continue reading Key leads National Party to easy reelection in New Zealand

Will New Zealand get a new flag later this year?

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New Zealand prime minister John Key opened the door to a national referendum later this year on changing the country’s flag, which would end a longstanding debate over whether it too closely resembles Australia’s flag.new zealand icon

That’s not a joke.

Key (pictured above, hoisting the Australian flag) suggested the referendum might be held at the same time as parliamentary elections in the island country of 4.4 million, and it’s an idea that proves relatively popular among Kiwis:

The idea has gained support from former Governor-General Dame Catherine Tizzard.  “Our flag and the Australian flag is so often confused for one another and the symbolism of our flag is a bit out-dated,” she says.

While Phoenix and All Whites Footballer Ben Sigmund agrees the trans-Tasman flags are too alike.  “Our flag is too much like the Australian flag so John Key I think you should change it mate.”

Here’s the Australian flag:

australia

Here’s the current New Zealand flag:

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Critics may have a point.  Canadian officials made a famous protocol faux pas in 1984 when former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke was met New Zealand flag instead of the Australian.

Both share in common the Union Jack in the upper left quadrant, a nod to their status as former British colonies, members of the Commonwealth and countries that have retained the British monarch — Queen Elizabeth II is the queen of Australia and the queen of New Zealand, too, though both countries have a governor-general that acts as the head of state when the British monarch isn’t in town.  Both share a blue ensign (Pantone 280C for color nerds) as the background to their flags.

Both flags also reference the four main stars in the Southern Cross constellation visible in the southern hemisphere, though the Australian version includes a fifth star that shines less brightly and a sixth star below the Union Jack, the seven-pointed ‘Commonwealth’ star — six points represent Australia’s six states and the last point represents the territories.

The current New Zealand flag replaced the British Union Jack in 1902.

As anticipated by Key, any referendum would present a choice between the current flag and another alternative put forward by the government.  One option that Key has mooted is the ‘silver fern’ flag — the silver fern, an unofficial symbol of New Zealand that dates back to the country’s military insignia during the South African War, adorns the one-dollar coin and the coat of arms:

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A new flag might also reference the Māori, the indigenous Polynesian people in New Zealand, a group that today represents 14.6% of the country’s population and has mobilized to develop increasing political power.  Hone Harawira, the leader of the Māori Party, would support a new flag, but would prefer that it include the motif of the current Māori flag:

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Taken together, the desire to differentiate New Zealand’s flag from Australia’s, the inclusion of the silver fern, the push to remove the Union Jack, and the push for Māori representation on the flag opens an unlimited number of potential choices:

nojack

maorifern

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Proponents of the current flag point to tradition and to the country’s common cause with the United Kingdom:

John Banks, leader of New Zealand’s ACT party said: “No. Men fought under that flag and sacrificed their lives in many war campaigns.  “I’m a bit old-fashioned, I don’t want the name of the country changed, or the flag, or God Save the Queen.”

Key leads the center-right New Zealand National Party, and he must call elections before November 2014.  He’ll be looking to win a third consecutive term in office.  Since coming to power in 2008, Key’s administration has raised the goods and services tax, privatized some public sector assets, responded to a major earthquake in Christchurch (New Zealand’s second-most populous city), enacted the Wellington Agreement to provide greater defense cooperation with the United States and propelled the Trans-Pacific Partnership among the United States, several Asian countries and several Latin American countries.

Key doesn’t advocate New Zealand’s transition from a constitutional monarchy to a republic, unlike Russel Norman, the co-leader of the Green Party, which hold 14 seats in the 120-member House of Representatives.

Key’s party controls 59 seats, and his government commands the support of 64 members, including independent and small-party allies.  The opposition New Zealand Labour Party controls just 34 seats.  David Cunliffe, the former health and communications minister, won the party’s leadership last year, despite wider support among the parliamentary c