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RSA Calls On Select Committee to Withdraw Flag Bill

Thursday 7 May 2015

RSA Calls On Select Committee to Withdraw Flag Bill

The Royal New Zealand RSA wants the Flag Referendum Bill to be withdrawn.

It called on the Select Committee considering the Bill to withdraw it to a more appropriate time to allow New Zealanders to commemorate the milestones of the First World War without distraction.

The Royal NZ RSA President, BJ Clark, told committee members this morning (May 7) that the timing of the Bill is particularly insensitive.

“New Zealanders treasure our flag. It was proudly flown at Gallipoli to mark the centenary of the Anzac campaign and at Anzac Day ceremonies throughout New Zealand in front of record numbers of people,” BJ Clark says.

“We acknowledge the right of all New Zealanders to have a say in the flag that represents us, but it’s totally inappropriate that this debate occurs as we commemorate the centenary of the First World War.”

BJ Clark points to the flag as symbolic of the sacred oath that New Zealand forces make to protect the peace and security of this country. “It is to the flag that we turn to honour their courage, commitment and sacrifice,” he says.

He emphasised that 29,000 New Zealanders have died in battles under the flag since World War One and thousands more have been wounded.

“Our flag has stood the test of time and is part of the heritage that has shaped and formed the pioneering and innovative people that we are today,” BJ Clark commented.

“It’s a classic case of ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.’”

He told the Select Committee there’s been no groundswell of support from the general public for a change nor any tangible march on parliament to demonstrate opposition. In fact he says recent polls show a large majority of the public are opposed to changing the flag or, at least, don’t see it as a pressing issue.

In a second recommendation BJ Clark argued that, if the two-part recommendation is to go ahead, it should be based on one question only “Do you want to change the current NZ flag – yes or no?”

He said the cost of $26 million for two referendums is insupportable at a time when many sectors are finding it difficult to make ends meet and no explanation has been given to justify the scale of spending on a project which has no public mandate.

In addition if a new flag was introduced it would cost millions to implement. These are hidden costs he said.

“The flag issue has the potential to frustrate and divide when its significance is huge and meaningful as we focus on the sacrifices made in the First World War,” BJ Clark says.

“We want to keep the flag not just because our people fought under it but because it continues to represent who we are today. A country should be proud of its history, not discard it.”

BJ Clark told the Select Committee that the Royal New Zealand RSA sees its responsibility on behalf of New Zealanders to champion the current flag.

He called on all people who support its retention to voice their support in every practical and democratic way.

ends

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