New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern just returned from maternity leave. But during her absence, acting PM Winston Peters, who has now retaken his previous position as deputy, decided to make the most of his time in the spotlight by accusing Australia of stealing New Zealand's flag.
Peters’ complained earlier this week that New Zealand “got there first with this design,” expressing his bitterness in an unusual rant.
“We designed it, and they borrowed it, and if we wanted to clear the matter up they should change their flag,” the angry politician said.
“It must be patently obvious that all over the world people are confused. I’ve been to places like Turkey and elsewhere where they’ve confused our countries on the basis of those flags. It’s not helpful,” he added.
It’s clear the two flags are similar, with both featuring a blue background and the union jack in the top left-hand corner, but there’s a clear difference between the colour and number of stars. The Aussie flag features six white stars while the Kiwi flag has four red stars.
While it’s unsure if the 73-year-old Peters is taking medication or suffering from dementia, opposition leader Simon Bridges has labelled him “a poor man’s Donald Trump.”
“They never raised with me changing the Australian flag. That’s weird even by his (Peters’) standards,” Bridges explained, going on to highlight issues such as the state of the economy and the country’s healthcare system as more pressing matters.
There is some truth to Peters’ rage though, as New Zealand adopted its flag in 1902 with Australia not doing so until 1954. That said, the Australian version of the flag has been used informally since 1901, with both countries having used similar designs during the late 1800s before settling on their current flags.
Peters is not the first to call for the Australian flag to be changed. Over two decades ago indigenous leader Lowitja O’Donoghue explained how the current flag symbolises a “narrow slice of our history,” in reference to indigenous Australians.
“For this reason, most of Australia’s indigenous people cannot relate to the existing flag,” she said. “For us, it symbolises dispossession and oppression.”
Even earlier this year, not-for-profit group Ausflag released a new design that strips the Union Jack and expands the Southern Cross. This didn’t go down well with PM Malcolm Turnball who has the final say on the issue, claiming Australians do not see the Union Jack as the focus of the flag.
“That’s the one they have on their backpacks when they’re travelling overseas, that’s the flag our soldiers have on their shoulder patches, that is our flag,” he said.
“So, I think the Australian flag will be flying over Parliament House long after all of us have shuffled off the stage of history.”