Kiwis furious at Australian Jacinda Ardern jibes
Days before the country goes to the polls, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been lambasted by Australian political commentators with one writing she wears a “shabby, fraudulent halo” and another that her signature policy had become a “signal failure”.
Newspaper The New Zealand Herald pulled together a compilation of criticisms of the PM from across the ditch including that devotion to a “virtual Ardern” was blinding people to the real deal.
But the overseas sniping has angered some ardent Ardern advocates who have branded the comments “idiotic,” said Australia was a “sad country” and Aussies should “leave NZ to the Kiwis”.
New Zealanders head to the ballot box on Saturday. Opinion polls have Ms Ardern’s Labour Party tantalising close to the 50 per cent of the vote needed to be able to govern in its own right without a coalition partner.
The Nationals, similar to Australia’s Liberal Party, are trailing in the polls, but leader Judith Collins is hoping to cause an upset and form a government with the help of the libertarian ACT Party which could become kingmaker in a close vote.
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On Thursday, the NZ Herald published a piece containing extracts from The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald and the BBC under the headline “Oz columnist’s swipe at Ardern”.
It included an editorial published in The Australian, owned by the same company as news.com.au, by Greg Sheridan.
“No international halo is so shabby, or so fraudulent, as that worn by Jacinda Ardern,” the political writer said.
Sheridan compared the PM to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.
“They excel in woke gesture and progressive symbolism. Their achievements in real policy terms are thin or negative.”
The opinion piece did acknowledge some strengths of Ms Ardern.
“She has just about eradicated COVID-19 … and she responded with moral clarity and decency to the Christchurch massacre.”
Nonetheless, he wrote, she was a “poor Prime Minister” whose party garnered less votes at the last election than the opposition, but was “elected almost by accident under the Byzantine protocols of her country’s eccentric electoral system”.
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Sheridan wrote the global “Jacindamania” was based on her being a young left-wing woman who gave birth in office.
“That is all wonderful but it has no bearing on policy achievement.”
He said the world was in love with a “virtual Ardern” that bore little resemblance to reality.
Australia would take more refugees per capita than New Zealand, the piece said, and New Zealand’s COVID-19 achievements were partly due to its isolation and the lockdowns were “overkill” that smashed the economy.
Sheridan said that major policy aims, such as eradicating homelessness, reducing child poverty and transport improvements, largely had failed to materialise.
The NZ Herald also published less than flattering remarks from the Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher on the same theme of policy failures.
“She took power promising to solve real-world problems. A signature promise – housing affordability – has become a signal failure.
“NZ home prices are among the world‘s least affordable. Auckland prices aren’t as outlandish as Sydney or Melbourne but they’re more out of reach than London or New York measured against average incomes.”
The BBC also made a mention with its Australia correspondent Shaimaa Khalil digging into criticism about how much had really changed under Ms Ardern’s prime ministership.
“Throughout her tempestuous first term Jacinda Ardern has maintained a message of kindness.
“But as she seeks another term in power, critics say that it will take more than kindness and charisma to get the economy on its feet and lift tens of thousands of people out of poverty”.
‘LEAVE NZ TO THE KIWIS’
A post of the article on NZ Herald’s Facebook page attracted 1300 comments.
One said the criticisms were a “smear campaign” that “Kiwis will see through”.
“Australian journalists criticising NZ politics? Perhaps they should concentrate on their own internal political mess,” said another.
“Look after your own sad country. Leave NZ to the Kiwis,” was another comment.
But one commentator, who claimed to be a Labour supporter, said he agreed with many of the observations by the various international commentators.
“I have concerns too. Housing and poverty ARE getting worse.”
“Ardern is a fabulous people’s person but not a policy maker and has no real direction for NZ,” said another.
“Dead right,” was one succinct comment”.
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However, whatever the view of overseas pundits, it’s looking increasingly likely Ms Ardern will romp home.
Pollsters Roy Morgan today said Ms Ardern was set for a “crushing” election victory on Saturday.
The organisation is forecasting support for Labour at 47.5 per cent but just 28.5 per cent for the Nationals.
While Labour’s coalition partner New Zealand First is down to just 2.5 per cent, Ms Ardern’s party could still form government with the support of the Greens and their potential 12 seats.
But they may not even need Greens’ support with Roy Morgan polling predicting Labour will just squeak a majority with 61 seats in the 120-seat parliament, 15 up on 2017.
“The decisive action taken by Jacinda Ardern to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic during March and April is the key to Ardern’s re-election,” said Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine.
“Support for National is unchanged indicating that new leader Judith Collins hasn’t managed to obtain a surge in support since winning the top job only three months ago.
“National is set to secure its worst result at an election for more than a decade.”