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Ardern ‘changing the game’

Opinion Piece

Getting away from New Zealand has proved rewarding for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose first major foray overseas as PM has been a big success.

Starting with a breakthrough with the usually difficult French on entry for New Zealand exports, she carried on to a successful meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right through a dinner with the Queen, to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Ardern presented a good face for New Zealand — young and, of course, expecting her first child. Her effect on her hosts and their media appeared to be generally positive.

Then there was an added distinction in her selection by Time as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Ardern was described in the magazine, by Facebook chief operating officer and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg, as “not just leading the country, she is changing the game and women and girls around the world will be better for it”.

For someone who wants to lead a transformational government, that is just about the perfect accolade.

The whole “Jacinda OE” has been a great contrast to the weeks leading up to it, with a series of government missteps and a poll just before she left that saw Labour’s support down, to below National.

The Government is coming up to one of its watershed moments, the first six months — a time when pundits run their rule over a government to see how it is doing.

That is really too early for this coalition Government, which has taken big steps in banning further offshore oil and gas exploration and deciding to fund rail projects from fuel taxes, but has a plethora of issues under review and a lot of work to do on major planks like health, education and the key Ardern target of reducing child poverty. The first Budget next month will be an important marker, with signs from Finance Minister Grant Robertson that the Government is limited by financial constraints.

Ardern was joined on her big OE by her partner Clarke Gayford, the “first bloke”. Like most Gizzy boys he is versatile, mastering the art of tying a bow tie and bowing correctly to Her Majesty. It was clearly a good break, as he gets ready for his next role of house husband.