Should New Zealand become a neutral state

New Zealand Prime Minister : Jacinda Ardern - the island talent

Kindness. A word that is difficult to translate. There is no exact equivalent in German, friendliness doesn't quite fit it. If you want to experience kindness, you might have to watch on this Friday morning in May as the woman, whom so many people follow through the hospital corridors of North Shore Hospital, enters a sickroom. In it a patient, heart disease and old.

“It's just me,” says the visitor, and the people standing behind her immediately lift their microphones into the air. The patient looks insecure. “Are just a few friends of mine,” says the visitor, sending a big, wide smile into the room. Shortly afterwards, the Prime Minister of New Zealand is sitting on the edge of the sick woman's bed, holding her hand as if a niece were visiting her old aunt here.

She wanted to bring kindness back into politics, said Jacinda Ardern on the day she was sworn in last October. Shortly before Ardern's visit to North Shore Hospital near Auckland, her government announced the new budget. With a multi-billion dollar grant, the health system is the winner of the budget - and Ardern, New Zealand Labor leader, is a winner too.

Especially in Europe, where Social Democrats are only involved in government in five out of 28 EU countries, she is celebrated as a heroine. “We hope for inspiration. You are a role model, ”said former SPD chairman Kurt Beck when Ardern visited the Friedrich Ebert Foundation on her trip to Germany in April. When asked how social democracy could reinvent itself in the 21st century, Ardern said: "We are positive and we have a plan."

At 37, Jacinda Ardern is not only the youngest Prime Minister in New Zealand's history, three months after she was sworn in, she announced that she was pregnant. Their daughter was born on June 21st. After Benazir Bhutto from Pakistan, she is the second head of state in the world to become a mother during the term of office. Jacinda Ardern likes to drink whiskey, sometimes she DJs. After their inauguration, the New Zealand band Fat Freddy's Drop played in front of Parliament. When she visited the Queen, Ardern wore a kahu huruhu, the traditional feather coat of the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.

Vogue magazine recently ran a story of glamorous photos of the Prime Minister, and her partner Clarke Gayford has a popular fishing television show called "Fish of the day". Both have what it takes to be an it couple, also through their social media presence. “At what age is it no longer permissible to run naked through the sprinkler? Ask a friend, ”Gayford tweeted the other day. Another time he posted a photo on Instagram showing how he had to fend off a shark with a rod on a fishing expedition. Ardern also informed people about her pregnancy via Instagram - with a photo that showed two large and one small fishhook.

At 28 she was the youngest MP

So much for the capricious superficialities that sometimes hide the fact that you are dealing with a woman who is very serious about her political ambitions. At 17, Ardern joined the Labor Party. She studied political science and PR at Waikato University, worked for former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke, just as she did in 2006, in a New York soup kitchen, and at the age of 28 became the youngest member of the New Zealand parliament at the time. Their declared goal: fight child poverty.

New Zealand is a country with a strong social democratic tradition. Founded in 1856, the small Pacific state was soon seen as a prime example of a welfare state. In the 19th century, the eight-hour day, minimum wage and pension were introduced. The American social reformer Frank Parsons called New Zealand the “birthplace of the 20th century”, the German social scientist Alfred Manes called it a “land of social miracles”, and politicians and researchers around the world called the small, isolated Pacific state the laboratory of the world. More than 100 years later, New Zealand is one of the richest countries on earth, at the same time almost a third of children live in poverty, violence in families is widespread and the country has the highest suicide rate among young people of all OECD countries.

When Ardern talks about remedying these grievances, she makes it sound like they are a consequence of the neoliberal policies of the National Party, which was in power for nine years. In fact, it was a Labor government that rebuilt the New Zealand welfare state in the 1980s in ways that couldn't have been more radical. Control over rents, wages and prices was given up, and farmers lost all support. Railways, post offices and banks were sold and almost all state psychiatric clinics were closed, and university visits were significantly more expensive.

The international community viewed the experiment with great interest. The "Financial Times" spoke of a "blueprint for the shrinking state", the US politician Newt Gingrich sent a delegation to New Zealand in the 1990s to look closely at how deregulation works.

Ardern is now countering this: your government has introduced a free first year of study. Provides money to improve early childhood care. In the future, three-year-olds will be given psychological support if behavioral problems are found in kindergarten. Schools in low-income areas get medical professionals who care for the children directly in the school if the parents neglect health issues. “I want my child to look back in 20 or 30 years and evaluate what I've done positively,” says Ardern.

In the hospital she now goes on to the next patient, an old woman again, who will soon be discharged. “Who will take care of you when you go home?” Asks Ardern. The woman has a man. And Ardern an idea: "Hang a bell over your bed and when you need it, you ring."

Her father was a cop but not a hardliner

Ardern grew up in Murupara and Morrinsville, small towns on the North Island where money is scarce for many. Her father was a police officer, but not a hardliner, more of a social worker type. She shaped his attitude, she says, just like the children who came to school without shoes and with empty lunch boxes. A former classmate says Ardern was always involved. She sat in the student parliament, fought for school girls to be allowed to wear trousers and organized buses at the school ball for everyone who had drunk alcohol. She drove out again at two in the morning to make sure everyone got home safe and sound.

Ardern did not drink that evening because she grew up in a Mormon family. When she moved into a shared apartment with three gay friends in her early twenties, she left the Mormons because of their negative attitude towards same-sex love. Otherwise, she said in an interview, it is a religious community that attaches great importance to kindness.

Would you like to meet someone who answers questions very differently from you? Then take part in "Germany speaks. More information about the campaign is also available here:

There it is again, that word, that shapes Ardern's style as Prime Minister. A year ago, Ardern had no idea that she would be holding this post so soon. She had just surprisingly become deputy party leader when the then Labor leader Andrew Little called her over. It was July 26th, Ardern's birthday, three months before the elections, and Labor was faltering. Little asked if she wanted to take over. Ardern said no. He asked her anew every day, she later said, but she kept saying no.

In interviews, Ardern has repeatedly spoken very openly about the fact that she is actually not suitable for such a top position.

“I always worry about making a mistake. I hate to disappoint people. ”And if you are so inclined, certain jobs are not the right thing.

She couldn't do her party any greater favor than finally saying yes to Little's offer on August 1st. Labor gained 19 points within a month.

Nevertheless, it was not enough for a majority in the September election. The Conservative National Party got 56 seats, Labor only 46 points. Eight seats went to the Greens and nine to New Zealand First. It all came down to New Zealand First. Would you support the National Party or Labor?

"Minister for Child Poverty Reduction"

New Zealand First is a right-wing conservative party. Your boss Winston Peters rejects immigration. He repeatedly warns that migrants from China will turn New Zealand into an Asian colony. Syrian men, too, he said, should stay home and fight.

In Germany the fronts would be clear. No self-respecting Social Democrat would negotiate with someone like Peters. In New Zealand the situation is different. Winston Peters also has a second name, his name is Winitana Pita. His father was a Maori. The indigenous people of New Zealand have experienced a lot of discrimination. And the Labor Party shares concerns about too many migrants. “The fact is,” wrote former Labor leader Andrew Little in a guest article in a newspaper, “that our infrastructure and public services cannot keep up with the record numbers of people entering the country. We need a respite. "

And so Jacinda Ardern negotiated with Winston Peters. For 26 days. Not only did he offer him the post of foreign minister, but he also promised that he would be deputy prime minister. Ardern got his answer from television. Not to her, but to reporters, Peters announced the decision to support Ardern. “Capitalism must regain its human face,” he said.

Now Ardern is leading a coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and right-wing conservatives. She has given herself the cumbersome additional title of “Minister for Child Poverty Reduction”. In the next three years she wants to lift 70,000 children out of poverty. Otherwise, the coalition stands for the construction of new houses, an increase in the minimum wage and a tightening of immigration regulations. A quota is to be introduced for climate refugees from the Pacific islands.

Now, on her maternity leave, Winston Peters is replacing her. But Ardern has already announced that she wants to take over government business again after six weeks. Your significant other will take care of their daughter. When Barack Obama came to New Zealand in March, she later said she asked him for advice on how to cope with the guilty conscience of a busy parent. Do your best, he said.

There is a lot to do for Ardern in the next few months. Her team is currently working on a fundamental reform of the way countries measure themselves year after year. The New Zealand government wants to get away from the fixation on monetary indicators such as gross domestic product - in favor of measurements of subjective well-being. Conventional growth paradigms no longer seem up-to-date to her. New Zealand would be the first country to take this step, which experts like Christine Lagarde and Joseph Stiglitz have long been calling for. Sustainability indices should also play a role.

New Zealand is a paradise for many

Ardern put climate protection on the agenda during the election campaign - much more than the Social Democrats usually do. New Zealand is considered a paradise for many, a third of the country is under nature protection, the Rotomairewhenua - a lake on the South Island - regularly receives the award for the clearest water in the world. The Whanganui River was granted the legal rights of one person last year, and in principle its trustees - a government representative and a Maori - could take legal action against any pollution.

At the same time, New Zealand's rise to become the world's largest milk exporter, due to strong demand from China, is taking its toll. There are now 6.6 million cows in the country of 4.7 million inhabitants, which not only cause a significant proportion of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions, but also destroy the waters. The urine containing nitrates leads to the growth of poisonous algae in lakes and rivers, which in turn deprive the water of oxygen. 60 percent of New Zealand's waters are now so polluted that you can no longer swim in them. Three quarters of the native freshwater fish are threatened.

In her lecture to the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Ardern spoke about the fact that in politics it is no longer enough to react ad hoc to emergencies, but that changes must be anticipated in the long term. “People have to see that we have a plan.” So Ardern makes plans.

The government has decided that New Zealand should be carbon neutral by 2050. In addition, no new offshore oil and gas drilling permits will be issued. In the days after the hospital visit, Ardern went to a farm and then on to Taranaki, where many people made a living from the oil and gas industry. There she wants to advertise her plans with kindness.

Before she leaves the hospital, Jacinda Ardern speaks to a pharmacist who has developed a system designed to minimize the risk of dosing errors. “Aren't you the pharmacist my sister-in-law told me about?” She asks him. New Zealand is different, she said in her speech to the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Unique because geographically isolated and so small. Perhaps that is why it is predestined for people to take care of one another and show solidarity.

The photo that the Prime Minister posted on Instagram to announce the birth of her baby shows her and her significant other in the hospital, the little fingers of the daughter reaching for hers. Below it reads: “Welcome to our village, little one.” Her daughter's second name is Te Aroha. This is Te Reo, the Maori language, and it means love.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page