• Written by Grant Duncan, Associate Professor for the School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University
Jacinda Ardern created an indefinable aura of promise – but just as people fall in love, some have fallen out of love, too. AAP/Mick Tsikas

In October 2017, 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern became prime minister of New Zealand. The world looked longingly at a young and inspiring female leader who had unexpectedly catapulted the Labour Party into office.

Ardern promised that kindness, compassion and carbon-neutrality would bless the Antipodes. She then gave birth to a beautiful girl and took six weeks’ parental leave, after which dad took over as caregiver. And baby made a star appearance at the UN General Assembly. She was widely praised for her compassionate responses to the terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on March 15.

Across the Pacific, Australians unhappy with their own conservative government may have been, and may continue to be, envious of New Zealand as a bastion of progressive, compassionate government.


Read more: Centre-left politics: dead, in crisis, or in transition?


But on closer inspection, it may not be as compassionate as it seems. US President Donald Trump, for example, envies New Zealand its tough, skills-based immigration policy. And it doesn’t need a wall to keep people out, thanks to the Pacific Ocean.

Despite all the lauding of the Ardern government, Kiwis who have left for life in another country – including the 600,000 in Australia – are not flocking home. It may have something to do with higher incomes and better weather.

Indeed, sometimes New Zealand likes to emulate Australia. Ardern sensibly copied John Howard’s post-Port Arthur firearms ban after the Christchurch attack. It’s genuinely tragic that New Zealand didn’t follow Australia’s example back in 1996. Lives would have been saved.

The Ardern you meet face to face is “as seen on TV” – a highly intelligent and empathetic person. There’s nothing fake about her. But the business of government is complex, grinding and (when you fail) unforgiving. And, in a democracy, it’s not about one person.

Due to proportional representation, to be prime minister of New Zealand, you have to build and maintain coalition relationships with other parties, some of whom you may share little in common.

Like a curmudgeonly uncle who spoils the youngsters’ Christmases, the veteran conservative populist Winston Peters has been propping up Ardern’s coalition government as deputy prime minister. And that deal came with a big price-tag, including a one-billion-dollar-per-annum provincial growth fund. It also gave Peters the power to block progressive policies, such as a tougher capital-gains tax.

Ardern over-promised on policy, especially on solving the housing crisis, and is now seen as struggling to deliver.

Auckland’s housing market remains one of the world’s least affordable – although not outdoing Sydney. Many Kiwis are still struggling with costs of living.

Ardern created an indefinable aura of promise – about a better and “kinder” politics – that resonated emotionally. In May 2018, Facebook called her the world’s “most loved” leader.

People often fall in love, but then they fall out of it. The beloved was supposed to make bad things go away. But the unspoken promise doesn’t materialise.

Disappointment

There is now disappointment that Ardern wouldn’t visit the land-claim protestors at Ihumātao, that she isn’t fixing the country’s electoral-finance laws, and that it took the Labour Party six months to investigate a serious sexual assault against a young female party volunteer – and even then they botched it.

Ardern readily accepts that there is still a lot to fix.

But the latest polls suggest that the next election, due in November 2020, may not go Labour’s way, and so she may not be around to fix stuff.

Ardern’s rise to power, domestically and globally, meant shouldering a burden of frustrated left-wing hopes and dreams, most of them needing radical reforms – too radical for Peters.

Ardern did not follow her predecessor Helen Clark’s third-way maxim – “under-promise and over-deliver”.


Read more: Politics podcast: Jacinda Ardern on her political life


New Zealand’s three-year parliamentary term means that a new government has to face the electorate before it has had a chance to produce results.

In the May 2020 Budget we can expect big new capital expenditure to raise employment and incomes, and to fix some problems. But it remains to be seen whether Labour and the Greens can muster enough voters to overcome Kiwi conservatism.

The opinions of many Kiwis are sufficiently of the protectionist “New Zealand first” variety that, if a wave of refugees were to arrive, the reactions would be just as polarising as they have been in Australia.

In a large online survey in 2017, 55% agreed that the numbers of immigrants arriving were “too high”, nearly 53% believed new arrivals should be told “do things the Kiwi way”, and 72% said New Zealand should “strictly control foreign ownership of property”. The numbers of immigrants have not declined much since 2017.

New Zealand’s populist and decidedly less progressive politics are discernible, if you ask the right questions. It’s just not obvious at the moment to the outside observer.

So if you feel a twinge of Kiwi-envy, just remember it always pays to take a closer look.

Grant Duncan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Grant Duncan, Associate Professor for the School of People, Environment and Planning, Massey University

Read more http://theconversation.com/left-leaning-australians-may-look-to-new-zealand-with-envy-but-ardern-still-has-much-work-to-do-128227

All You Need to Know About Trenchless Technology

For many years, the traditional sewerage lines and pipe developments were not enough due to the long wait and cracking. The traditional sewer pipe repairs involved cracking the earth to find the par...

News Company - avatar News Company

Before we rush to rebuild after fires, we need to think about where and how

A primary school in East Gippsland was burnt down in the current bushfire crisis. While Premier Daniel Andrews immediately committed to rebuilding the school as it was, media reported the local CFA ca...

Mark Maund, PhD Candidate, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle - avatar Mark Maund, PhD Candidate, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle

Australian sea lions are declining. Using drones to check their health can help us understand why

Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) are one of the rarest pinnipeds in the world and they are declining. Jarrod Hodgson, CC BY-NDAustralian sea lions are in trouble. Their population has never rec...

Jarrod Hodgson, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide - avatar Jarrod Hodgson, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide

With costs approaching $100 billion, the fires are Australia's costliest natural disaster

It’s hard to estimate the eventual economic cost of Australia’s 2019-20 megafires, partly because they are still underway, and partly because it is hard to know the cost to attribute to de...

Paul Read, Climate Criminologist & Senior Instructor/Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine, Monash University - avatar Paul Read, Climate Criminologist & Senior Instructor/Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine, Monash University

In cases of cardiac arrest, time is everything. Community responders can save lives

Cardiac arrest can occur with little or no warning in people who were previously healthy, including young people. From shutterstock.comEach year more than 24,000 Australians experience a sudden cardia...

Bill Lord, Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University - avatar Bill Lord, Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University

So the government gave sports grants to marginal seats. What happens now?

When Australians pay their income tax, they assume the money is going to areas of the community that need it, rather than being used by the government to shore up votes for the next election. This is...

Maria O'Sullivan, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, and Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University - avatar Maria O'Sullivan, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, and Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University

The Olympics have always been a platform for protest. Banning hand gestures and kneeling ignores their history

It is the year of the Tokyo Olympics, and the International Olympic Committee was quickly out of the blocks with new guidelines regarding athlete protests. The IOC is worried the biggest stories of...

David Rowe, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Research, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University - avatar David Rowe, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Research, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University

Where Can You Get Weed By Ordering It Online?

Nowadays, everyone wants to get their hands on some weed. Marijuana has become legalized in a lot of countries worldwide. People wait in lines for days to buy some. You couldn’t have imagined that...

News Company - avatar News Company

Hidden women of history: Catherine Hay Thomson, the Australian undercover journalist who went inside asylums and hospitals

Catherine Hay Thomson went undercover as an assistant nurse for her series on conditions at Melbourne Hospital. A. J. Campbell Collection/National Library of AustraliaIn this series, we look at under...

Kerrie Davies, Lecturer, School of the Arts & Media, UNSW - avatar Kerrie Davies, Lecturer, School of the Arts & Media, UNSW

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company