Clark marks the difference between Ardern and Collins

Michelle Grattan

Michelle Grattan

Canberra, September 26, 2020

                    Helen Clark, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand (RNZ Photo)

On October 17, 2020, New Zealanders will head to the polls to vote in a general election and also on referendum questions for the legalisation of cannabis and euthanasia.

In a head-to-head between two women, Labour’s Jacinda Ardern appears to be heading to a comfortable win against National Judith Collins, who only recently became her Party’s Leader.

This week, New Zealand’s three term ex-Prime Minister Helen Clark joins the podcast to discuss the World Health Organisation’s investigation into Covid-19 preparedness and response, and the New Zealand political scene.

Strong global voice

Clark is a significant global player, a strong voice on the issues of climate change, gender equality, and women’s leadership, through her work with prominent bodies in the United Nations.

Most recently, she was appointed Co-Chair of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, which will present a report on how to effectively address health threats as they develop.

In New Zealand, an election in the wake of a pandemic creates a unique range of issues for voters. Ardern has not committed to opening the New Zealand border, while the National Party believes that the border must be opened for economic reasons, but under stringent conditions.

Clark is doubtful the border should be opened soon or will be.

“I do not think that the border could be open for Christmas. And I am in the school of thought that says a vaccine as a silver bullet is not going to give us sufficient protection any time soon. The most optimistic forecasts … [are for] later next year. Others, which might be more realistic, are saying later on in 2022. Others are saying for years,” she said.

Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins (Picture from The Conversation)

Trans-Tasman bubble

And on the question whether there will be a trans-Tasman travel bubble soon, Clark says, “At the moment, we do not see that either. If Australia had firm borders at its state level, we could have had bubbles with New Zealand and Australian states. But that is not the way the Australians have dealt with it. And that, of course, is absolutely their prerogative.”

With the first election debate taking place this week, Clark looks back to the election when she ran against a female leader.

“I recall that 1999 election when I went head-to-head with then Prime Minister Jenny Shipley. And to use a ghastly phrase, in a way there is nothing that a lot of observers would like more than to see the two of you descend into some kind of ‘cat fight.’  Watching Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collinson September 22, 2020, I think it is also fair to say that they kept it well above that level. They are so different in style. They are a generation apart. Jacinda, 40. Judith, 61. Very different style. But they did not descend into pettiness of the kind that you can see in such debates. So, I think that the women leaders feel a real onus not to get down into the gutter.”

Michelle Grattan is a Professorial Fellow at the University of Canberra, Australia. The above article has been published under Creative Commons Licence.

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