Dr Liz Gordon: Strong leaders, tsunami and no more poverty

By   /   September 11, 2018  /   15 Comments

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There has been a spate of commentary by male media people recently going on and on about how Jacinda needs to become a “tougher” Prime Minister.  The two New Zealand role models often cited as ‘tough’ are Robert Muldoon and Helen Clark.

There has been a spate of commentary by male media people recently going on and on about how Jacinda needs to become a “tougher” Prime Minister.  The two New Zealand role models often cited as ‘tough’ are Robert Muldoon and Helen Clark.

The lack of toughness apparently stems from her reluctance to sack colleagues in a public display of debauchery, a la House of Cards.  According to Duncan Garner, New Zealanders like ‘strong leaders’, citing Muldoon as an example.

This I found very interesting.  Muldoon was a dreadful bully and was hardly someone who would tolerate the more woman friendly, child-friendly era in which we now find ourselves.  Is Duncan really suggesting we need a Muldoon-like personality strutting his way across the Prime Ministerial stage in the 21st century? I really cannot think of anything we need less. Are men changing quickly enough in the #MeToo era, I wonder?

Helen Clark was a more interesting figure.  While I am sure she projected strength, she was not a particularly effective PM in making the kinds of reforms that were needed then and are needed now. Specifically, Clark made no attempt to unlock the effects of neo-liberal deregulation, and it has taken a whole decade more for some of those unequalising and punitive policies to begin to be unpicked.

What Helen Clark was strongest at was being a woman PM and keeping the job for nine years.  But at the end, prison numbers were still going up, tertiary fees were still there, nothing had been done to reduce child poverty and the rich continued to get richer, wages remained low at the bottom and high at the top. That government just never got it together for its people.

It seems to be that Jacinda is Prime Minister in a period when ambitious programmes of change are underway.  People are being listened to who have not had a voice for 30 years. Ideas that have been hidden deeply are emerging.  The new regime is standing resolutely for change, even though they know the road is hard. Jacinda is an up-front leader of that change, and to me that is real strength.

There are different kinds of strength and that is the kind that is needed now, not a frowny sort of bullying approach that dares people to speak and be punished. We do not need Genghis Khan, thanks very much.   Jacinda, your smile is powerful, your commitment is strong. Kia kaha, e wahine toa!

I was in Turanganui-a-kiwa (Gisborne) last week.  I had to visit the Gisborne City Council in its lovely new premises.  The first thing I saw was a big pile of fridge magnets (with little shopping list thingies attached – very nice) warning of the need to get to higher ground if an earthquake is long or severe.  This is a very good warning. If (when) the massive Hikurangi trench ruptures on the East Coast, it is likely that a huge tsunami will arrive quite quickly. But what struck me most is that the beautiful new Council building, on whose table the fridgey things were displayed, is at the confluence of Gisborne’s two main rivers, and barely 100 metres from the sea, on low-lying land.

Let’s hope the building, which is long and low, also doubles as a boat for when the tsunami comes.  Perhaps they should have called it Noah’s Ark? Either way it seems very odd to me that the Civil Defence HQ is right in the path of the city’s biggest threat.

I am off to the CPAG summit on Wednesday in Wellington.  This one is about rethinking the welfare state, which is work that badly needs doing.  This is also some vindication for the CPAG team who have been campaigning against benefit-led child poverty and tax inequalities for many years. Change is indeed in the air.


Dr Liz Gordon began her working life as a university lecturer at Massey and the Canterbury universities. She spent six years as an Alliance MP, before starting her own research company, Pukeko Research.  Her work is in the fields of justice, law, education and sociology (poverty and inequality). She is the president of Pillars, a charity that works for the children of prisoners, a prison volunteer, and is on the board of several other organisations. Her mission is to see New Zealand freed from the shackles of neo-liberalism before she dies (hopefully well before!).

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  1. Kaikoura has done the very same thing as Gisborne.
    Built an expensive flash new council building just above the shore line.

    Strange decision, when on a daily basis we are told about rising sea levels.

    • Marc says:

      Shows the top admin idiots still have NOT got the message, neither in Wellington, nor in the various regional or local authorities across the country.

  2. Jays says:

    Adern should have sacked Curran much earlier in the piece and she is weak and frankly useless for not having done so.
    Feel free to disagree with both Key’s and Clark’s policy directions, but both of them were highly effective in managing their MPs.
    Adern has been shambolic and it matters not one bit how good your policy intentions are if you cannot organise your government enough to implement them.
    Add to this the absurd lie by omission on radio last Friday where she led the populace to believe that Curran was safe in her job when she had already fallen on her sword.
    It hurts to say this, but right now both NZF and Greens are playing the political game more effectively than Labour.

  3. Gosman says:

    What parts of “neo-liberal deregulation” (Whatever that means) are being unpicked?

  4. Me says:

    When did opinions become news?

    These days most of us are becoming more insular and mainly reading opinions we like and respect via blogs and internet and it is interesting watching media evolve or die.

  5. Graham Adams says:

    I agree, Liz. Helen Clark is also relentlessly touting her own toughness lately but I, for one, am unconvinced that she was tough when it really mattered. https://www.noted.co.nz/currently/politics/helen-clarks-chest-beating-is-wearing-a-bit-thin/

  6. Nobody says:

    She’ll never be tough enough for those bastards. Not until she’s comfortable pulling the wings off of flies, taking breakfast away from kids living in cars, and tossing sacks of kittens into the river like all Neo-liberal politicians must be able to do.

    • Marc says:

      Winston knows what he can get away with, it takes a tough woman to put that man in line, so far Jacinda is not faring well enough.

      And apart from the ‘one way plastic bags’, where are we heading in regards to ‘sustainability’ now? I see f*** all progress, the supermarkets still hand out one way bags as usual, plastic is everywhere, people drive their SUVs and other cars as usual, public transport is limited to certain cities and routes, fossil fuels fuel most of our economic activities, and Roudup is still used by agriculture and Councils despite a major court case in the US awarding a victim of such poison causing his cancer getting hundreds of millions in damages.

      Where does ‘clean and green’ BS NZ Inc stand, not well and not good, I note.

      We get NO progress, to be honest, sustainable is the word that is most abused, as nobody does give that word any meaning, it is as usual, NZ Inc is a total BS country run by idiots for idiots, I note. And most do not care anyway, as long as they can get by as usual, stuff the stupid ‘environment’ and whales and dolphins and those choking on plastic in the oceans.

  7. Marc says:

    How does a fair minded female PM like Jacinda deal with chauvinist kind of ‘ministers’ trying to manipulate and pull stuff off behind her back, and then appear ‘strong’, when she is treated like a piece of easy game (due to her early motherhood, for instance)?

    We have male members of cabinet, and I would name one Winston Peters, and especially known chauvinistic Shane Jones, who do apparently put the pressure on, to get the most of what they and their party may stand for, and thus compromise the PM and the whole government arrangement.

    That is the damned reality as I see it, without much emotion and PC madness dictating my thoughts and feelings. Open your eyes, the Nats are seeing an opportunity, and sadly, the government looks weak as a whole, as there are not sufficient common interests, we have seen this with three strikes, with the refugee issue, and we see it in other areas now.

    I knew this was going to happen, hence I was concerned about this government taking over the helm, as the arrangement is too loose, too unprepared and thus ‘weak’ as a whole, that is not the PM’s fault I would say though. She may have and still may have good intentions.

  8. Janio says:

    Jacinda has surrounded herself with ABCs(anyone but Cunliffe) to the right of her party and she is loyal to them, Curran a good example. I count that as weakness, probably because they don’t impress me as the team to get election promises done. Helen handled ministers who stepped out of line, her personal likes/dislikes not a factor. That was a strength. Liz, your comments are superficial & unconvincing.

  9. Ngungukai says:

    Jacinda appears to be doing a good job, a Coalition Government is all about compromise, members of NZF & Labour need to remember they are working for the good of the country, not their own ego’s or personal agenda’s.

  10. Mel says:

    At least they can’t criticise her for “not having children” as they did HC. Remember that? The boys club touting how many kids they collectively had to shame Helen?

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