Ardern’s policy legacy and the way forward under Chippy
24 January, 2023
Interview by Casper McGuire, adapted by Stella Huggins
Jacinda Ardern’s policy impacts have been significant, garnering reactions from international and domestic forces. Photo: New Zealand Labour Party.
With Jacinda Ardern’s resignation brings a close to a distinct policy era. Her well-defined leadership style of empathy and kindness brought about international attention, and a multitude of comparisons to other world leaders of the moment.
The major events of her leadership have been echoed many times over the last week. The Whakaari eruption, a global pandemic, and the Christchurch mosque attacks each brought their own challenges. One constant in her approach throughout was of course the message of leading with empathy.
Speaking to 95bFM’s The Wire, Geoffrey Miller, the Democracy Project’s geopolitical analyst, said that, in his opinion, “Jacinda Ardern’s compassionate response to the Christchurch mosque attacks in 2019 really propelled her on the world stage.”
The immediate response to the mosque attacks is often what Ardern is praised for, but Miller emphasised the long-lasting impact of her response.
The Christchurch Call initiative prompted discourse on how social media censors and engages with violent, extremist content.
The initiative, which has partners such as French President Emmanuel Macron, The Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, and Tech Against Terrorism, is still active.
Miller also cited Ardern's involvement in the APEC conference hosted by Aotearoa in 2021.
“She called a special virtual summit that included Xi Jingping, Joe Biden, and Vladimir Putin all around the same virtual table. That wasn't an easy thing to do back in July 2021.”
Miller recognised that in retrospect, this “didn’t solve anything”, however argued that we probably need more of that kind of diplomacy, outreach, dialogue, and consensus-driven approach in politics.
In terms of her domestic policy, Ardern campaigned on a platform of reducing child poverty and finished her tenure on more controversial projects, such as Three Waters reform and the proposed TVNZ and RNZ merger.
Tangible improvements on the child poverty front have been documented. The Annual Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Child Poverty Report 2022 cited an improvement in child poverty measures during the pandemic instead of them rising sharply, like during the global financial crisis.
However, critics say there is still more to be done. Professor Nikki Turner, health spokesperson for Child Poverty Action Group told The Wire that the progress has been disappointing,
"There have been some genuine reductions overall in child poverty but progress is slow and the gap for our children in the most severe poverty remains large and an urgent issue."
In terms of what the future holds as Chris Hipkins steps into the role, Miller doubted that foreign policy changes are in store.
“I think we're going to see a lot of continuity, because a lot of the groundwork has been laid by Jacinda Ardern.”
A trade-focused mission to China was promised by Ardern in late 2022, and Miller predicts Chris Hipkins will follow through on this.
“He said that he will make travelling to China a high priority. That’s a significant point.”
While foreign influence was something of a focus for Ardern, Hipkins has made it clear he is looking at “bread and butter issues” in the lead-up to 14 October. Miller believes that “for most voters, that means domestic issues.”
Public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air