WELLINGTON/SYDNEY: New Zealand’s Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters has called on Australia to change its flag, accusing its neighbour of copying New Zealand’s own design — a jab at a time of testy relations between the normally close allies. The two countries have been exchanging barbs over Australia’s so-called character test, which has resulted in a rise in the number of New Zealanders being deported from the country. “We had a flag which we had for a long time — copied by Australia and they should actually change their flag,” Peters said on Television New Zealand, when an interviewer referenced a failed local 2015 referendum to change their own flag. Peters is acting leader while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is on maternity leave.
Both nations’ flags feature the Union Jack — a nod to their British colonial past — as well as the Southern Cross cluster of stars set against a blue backdrop. The only difference is New Zealand’s design features four red stars, while Australia’s is adorned by six white ones — a similarity that often causes confusion over the identify of the flags. New Zealand formally adopted its flag in 1903, while Australia did not take up its current design until 1952, though it used a similar design with a red backdrop as early as 1901. Around that time, New Zealand opted against becoming an Australian state; however visa arrangements allow citizens to easily travel and work in either country. Squabbles over the origins of national icons regularly break out between nationals of the two countries, which normally share a good-hearted cultural and sporting rivalry. — Reuters