The reaction of the New Zealand government to a speech given by our cricket-tragic ex-prime minister, John Howard to the New Zealand National Party proved once and for all that it might be a sleepy little country but there is usually someone left awake to update scores on the rugby channel.
John Howard’s mistake was to describe the election result that saw the majority of votes go to the Nationals but government going to a Labor/New Zealand First coalition as ‘disappointing, unjust and unfair.’ That was the 2017 election in which the youngest ever Labor Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, celebrated her victory in the traditional New Zealand way, by getting pregnant.
Anyway, while Jacinda was taking some well-earned maternity leave, it seems, that someone was awake when Howard made his speech and thought to wake the acting Prime Minister, Winston Peters, with a quick report. It was as if someone had lit the blue touch-paper without checking the use-by date on the rocket.
After giving himself 24 hours to think of an appropriate response, one becoming of an acting PM, he decided to ignore a number of salient facts, go all international and describe Howard’s speech as interference in New Zealand politics just as Russia had interfered in United States politics. And for good measure, he boasted that New Zealand was a democracy with some very fine features that were superior to Australia.
He felt no need to mention the anti-democratic electoral system that New Zealand shares with Romania and Lesotho. A late hit on the Australian pensioner prime minister and his earlier demand that Australia change its flag proved to Jacinda who was due back from leave, that he had not woken the rest of the country over trivial matters.
Winston’s comment about the Australian flag was picked up from Reuters in London by Your ABC who weren’t paying attention at the time. This was unfortunate since, Reuters being foreign, had missed what could only be described as an example of New Zealand’s well documented, inferiority complex. And they do have a few things to be inferior about. But, I digress.
Winston – he doesn’t mind me calling him Winston, because he knows his mother copied that name from someone else without permission – thought Australia should get its own flag. He asserted that in 1954, Australia copied the New Zealand flag. What he forgot to mention, was that the New Zealand Flag, the blue ensign, with the Union flag in the canton and four white-edged stars representing, Crux Australis (in case Winnie missed it – Crux Australis) which first came into use on March 24, 1902, was a stylised facsimile of Australia’s first flag the red ensign, with the Union flag in the canton, the federation star and the five star pattern of the appropriately named Crux Australis. Our first flag came into being on September 3, 1901.
Winnie whinges because in 1954, Menzies changed the colour of the ensign from red to blue. If we were churlish, we would point to the fact that the New Zealand flag only has four stars representing the Southern Cross. Perhaps, the long white cloud that most times hides the sky meant they jist guissed it es bist they cud.
Your ABC, hoping to make amends for ignoring Winston’s faux outrage, did report that the NZ government had introduced a policy of paid domestic violence leave while Winston was in charge. What it didn’t do, however, was to query whether Winston’s fine and superior features were reflected in the high rates of domestic violence in that country, with Maori women three times more likely to be killed by a partner than non-Maori with police attending over 100,000 domestic violence incidents each year, and with estimates of another 400,000 incidents going unreported. If only half that number take their ten days DV leave each year, there won’t be anyone to turn the lights out.
Jacinda might note that next time she goes on leave, Winston could be more gainfully employed looking for a cure for that national disease, rather than assuming it to be part of a superior democracy while dissembling about New Zealand’s facsimile flag.
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