John Sargeant: Flag debate fast becoming a circus
It's a shame that the issue of choosing a new national flag - or not - over the next three weeks has become embroiled in the dirty world of personal digs and is rapidly tuning into a circus instead of the intelligent and impassioned debate it should be.
The claims from those opposed to change say it's a personal project of Prime Minister John Key and it's a clear case of his abuse of power.
That was sparked by Key saying that it is the opportunity to change the flag that will come once in a lifetime and certainly the last chance before New Zealand becomes a republic. What Key meant was that it may as well be the '12th of never' as with the advent of Kate and Wills stepping up over recent years, producing two fine children and making sure we are on their itinerary, the monarchy is set to stay for a very long time to come.
But even that takes away the real reason to vote for changing the flag. It's all about, well, changing the flag really, simple as that.
READ MORE: The flag debate
Richie McCaw supporting the change didn't help. To be honest I'm not sure why he spoke up. A misplaced sense of importance perhaps. I know he's the 'goody two shoes' of rugby who can't put a foot wrong but he should have kept quiet on the issue. In fact I believe he should never have been New Zealander of the year come to that. Yes he has done a lot for charity and he was an All Black captain blah, blah, blah and he has the 'common touch' for such rugby royalty, but he was still only a very well paid rugby player after all. If he wasn't paid he wouldn't have done what he did.
In some ways I think we have never quite grown up as a nation. Had Louise Nicholas won the gong it would have done far more good for society and women's issues surrounding sexual violence than the years of campaigning by so many other victims. What happened to Nicholas and how she has come out of it in support of others is nothing less than miraculous. I'm sure she wouldn't have embarrassed herself by speaking out on such an issue as the flag referendum.
Dan Carter supports change and now singer and actor Stan Walker has now come out in support of keeping the flag, who next I wonder.
But never mind, the wily old fox Winston Peters is here to entertain us by throwing in the race card as he always does. I say race card as he is saying that only citizens and not permanent residents should be able to vote on the flag issue. What he means is new immigrants who have not been here long enough to become citizens should be kicked out of the vote as they do not have the commitment to the country. That's the usual race based rhetoric from Peters we have come to expect.
But regardless of all the sideshows, it's clearly time to change the flag for the simple reason it is time to show our independence in the world. For some time I believed that it should not be changed as I felt it important to back the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association, best known as the RSA. They are certainly against changing the flag on the basis that many good New Zealanders gave their lives for it.
I respect that but it is also true that New Zealanders fought for freedom, the freedom to grow and gain independence of thought above all else. It's not that much different to teaching our values to our children, but they eventually grow up to make their own way. I am British by birth and the Union Jack means a great deal to me, I love seeing it flying, but it represents Britain, not New Zealand any more.
We have to respect the past but move on to the future and that is what the proposed new flag does. The Southern Cross represents us, passed on from the old flag which is appropriate, it's our special part of the universe, and we are pleased to see it especially overseas. It makes us feel good because it belongs to us as does the silver fern. That's why I support changing the flag.
Oddly enough not everybody will agree as many people say it is a waste of $26 million but it's a far bigger waste if people don't get off their backsides and actually vote for their preference.
It doesn't take a rugby player or anybody else for people to work out the choice for themselves. It's about going forward in the world proud of who we are and our part in it.