Lecturer sees implications for NZ’s future social policy

Chris Rudd
Chris Rudd
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s pregnancy is likely to have an impact on social policy in New Zealand, a University of Otago politics lecturer says.

Ms Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford announced yesterday they are expecting their first child in June.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters will be acting prime minister for about six weeks after the baby is born.

University of Otago politics senior lecturer Dr Chris Rudd said it was the first time in New Zealand history that a prime minister was having a baby during her leadership term, and he believed it might influence policies surrounding some of the social issues affecting the country.

"It’s a really exciting time in politics.

"I’m sure there’s going to be people who say this is a negative thing and ask who is going to run the country and all that stuff.

"But I think it’s positive. I can’t see any down side.

"She’ll be going through something that many, many other people have gone through, and that can only be for the better.

"You can sympathise all you like with people going through poverty, but if you haven’t been poor, you are only sympathising.

"It’s not something she’s deliberately done in order to try to empathise with families and people with young children."

He believed a side effect of the situation might be the Prime Minister would be better informed about what families were actually going through, and she would be better equipped to shape policy around child welfare, health and education.

It may provide a prime opportunity for the country to address some of its societal woes.

"I think this is wonderful.

"She’s breaking down some barriers and people will have to talk about issues which they haven’t talked about in the past.

"I think it’s good to have this shake-up, and people may be having to think differently. It can only be for the good."

Ms Ardern is not the first woman to multi-task as a mother and prime minister.

In 1990, Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto gave birth to her second child, making her the first head of government in modern history to give birth while in office.

Dr Rudd said it was nearly 125 years since women were given the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

"The fact that we have not just a female prime minister, but one who is going to have a child while in office — to me, it shows how far we’ve come."

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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