Is pregnant PM a world first?

January 19, 2018

Is this another world first for New Zealand?:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner, Clarke Gayford, have today announced that they are expecting their first child in June.

“We’re both really happy. We wanted a family but weren’t sure it would happen for us, which has made this news unexpected but exciting.

“Yesterday I met with Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, to share the news and to ask him to take on the role of Acting Prime Minister for a period of 6 weeks after our baby is born.

“As is the case when I am overseas, Mr Peters will act as Prime Minister, working with my office while staying in touch with me. I fully intend to be contactable and available throughout the six week period when needed.

“Mr Peters and I have a great relationship, and I know that together we’ll make this period work. I will make arrangements for appropriate Ministers to act in my other portfolios over the six weeks I am away from Parliament.

“At the end of my leave I will resume all Prime Ministerial duties.

“Clarke and I are privileged to be in the position where Clarke can stay home to be our primary caregiver. Knowing that so many parents juggle the care of their new babies, we consider ourselves to be very lucky. . . 

Several women have become mothers while they’re MPs but this is the first New Zealand Prime Minister to be pregnant in office.

Jenny Shipley’s children were in their teens when she became PM and Helen Clark didn’t have children.

Someone with a better knowledge of New Zealand political history than mine might correct me, but I can’t name a New Zealand Prime Minister who became a father while in office. *

My knowledge of international political history is even more scanty. I can name several women Prime Ministers with children but none who gave birth while holding the office.

My generation was probably the last to be brought up thinking we’d marry and have babies, in that order, and that at least while the children were young would put mothering before paid work.

Younger women have been brought up being told girls can do anything which is often interpreted to mean not just everything but everything at once.

That is of course impossible. But younger men have also been brought up with the expectation they will play a much more active role in parenting than the men of earlier generations did.

Providing the pregnancy, birth and childhood go smoothly, it is possible for a woman to grow and deliver a baby, take some leave, then return to work and for the baby’s father to take on the role of stay-at-home parent.

As Liam Hehir says the country should keep running while she’s on leave.

. . . This is good news. Children are a blessing. But apart from happiness for Ardern and her partner, there is another reason to be glad. This is an opportunity for New Zealand to demonstrate its bona fides as a mature and stable liberal democracy.

The good governance of this country should not depend on the constant availability of any one person. If a system breaks down over the temporary absence of a single individual, then that system is not fit for purpose. The prime ministership is not, and should never be, be a single point of failure for the country as a whole. . . 

Mark Richardson was roundly criticised for asking Ardern about her plans to have a family.

The criticism wasn’t entirely fair. The couple’s family plans are their own business but a question on the impact that might have on the country is legitimate.

At the time I thought the critics were underestimating the demands of both roles – that of Prime Minister and parenting. But others can deputise for the PM.

Women have been raising families while their children’s fathers were in demanding jobs for aeons. That is still more common but men are increasingly taking on parenting to enable their children’s mothers to pursue their careers.

Before he was an MP, Bill English was a stay at home parent while his wife Mary worked as a GP.

New Zealand’s systems should be robust enough to ensure there is no cause for concern about the running of the country while motherhood takes priority for Ardern and the running of their home and family is not our business.

I wish them well and I hope that everything goes as planned.

Whether or not it does, I hope that the baby will come before the country.

There are plenty of other people who are able to put New Zealand first. All babies deserve parents who will put them first.

* Update: The Herald says: Benazir Bhutto, then President of Pakistan,  gave birth to her daughter Bakhtawar on January, 25 1990,  while in office.

 

 

 

 


Loo lessons

April 11, 2017

“There’s a lot of lessons in cleaning toilets, more guys should do it. “

This is part of Prime Minister Bill English’s answer to one of 12 questions posed by Jennifer Dann.

The question was on how do he and his wife Mary juggle their work and family life.

That they do, and do it so well, is a tribute to both of them. Although being public about it doesn’t come naturally to either of them.

Modern politics and media force politicians to reveal more about themselves than was expected in the past, which isn’t easy for someone like the PM who admits to being shy.

I’m quite a shy person. I guess it’s part of that rural, big family, Catholic culture that I’m from which tends to dampen excessive self-awareness. It’s just, “Be humble. Don’t go out there telling everyone how great you are. Someone else is probably doing it better anyway.” But I’m enjoying it more than I expected.

But showing more of the person engages people who aren’t interested in politics.

Answers like this, to the question of what he’s learned from his Samoan and Italian parents-in-law helps us understand what informs his politics.

They’re a remarkable example of the promise of coming to New Zealand being realised. They raised 13 children on one income and own their own home. They had a very strong focus on their kids getting educated and maintaining their health which is a challenge in a large family on a low income.

I have enormous respect for their effort and I’m so pleased I’ve had exposure to different cultures which I wouldn’t have had as a Pakeha farmer from Southland.

His upbringing is also an important part of who he is.

He says growing up in a family of 12 children on a Southland farm was:

A mixture of discipline, hard work and adventure. We were expected to contribute to the farm and the household to the maximum of our ability at whatever age. When I was 10 I was sent out to plough our paddock on the tractor with very little instruction. At age 12 I cooked breakfast for 20 people when the shearers came up for breakfast. It was pretty basic, eggs cooked fast in hot fat. The sibling rivalry was constant. I was part of a mob of five boys at the tail end. As long as you stayed in your place it was trouble-free. I did better at school than some of them but it wasn’t like you were allowed to stay home and read books. It was a household where other skills were highly valued. You might get the best grades but were you the fastest shearer or the best fencer? My father said we were more nuggety than talented.

Family is a big part of who our PM is, so is his faith:

My faith is a significant part of who I am so it can’t help but affect my personal decision-making. It’s part of your conscience. I go to church most Sundays. I like sitting down the back as just another congregation member. You hear ideas around humility, forgiveness and mercy which are not part of the general political round. I find it very balancing.

Humility, forgiveness and mercy aren’t values often attributed to politicians and most Prime Ministers don’t clean the loos at night. But he’s a better man, and PM, for all of that.


That simple, that difficult

February 14, 2017

Prime Minister Bill English and his wife Mary were profiled in last week’s Women’s Weekly.

It’s a story of sacrifice – he gave up farming to enable her to follow her career as a General Practitioner. She accepted the loss of privacy and family time which a life in politics demands.

It’s a story of a strong partnership, built on mutual respect, shared values and faith.

It’s a story of a love built on a foundation of friendship, a story of two successful individuals working to be a successful couple and of a loving, and for modern times, large, family.

Behind the gush is the story of a marriage that has endured and in it is the answer to a whole lot of New Zealand’s problems – loving each other and your children, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

It’s that simple and that difficult.

The Herald and Stuff also have stories with the PM at home in Dipton.

 

 


Todd Barclay’s maiden speech

October 23, 2014

Clutha Southland MP Todd Barclay delivered his maiden speech yesterday:

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I am humbled to stand here to speak for the first time in this Chamber.

I am humbled by the sense of history, tradition, and culture. But I am also humbled as I look around, because from today I am part of this place.

It is a true honour to stand before you as the representative for Clutha-Southland.

We are proudly the largest general electorate in New Zealand. We embrace Southland, South Otago, West Otago, Fiordland, and the Greater Wakatipu. At 38,000 square kilometres, we’re almost the size of Switzerland.

I want to acknowledge and thank my family, friends, Clutha-Southland supporters who are here today, and former ministerial office colleagues, in particular Jamie Gray and Julie Ash.

Mr Speaker, congratulations to you on your re-appointment, and thank you for the strong voice you have provided for provincial New Zealand throughout your time in this House.

I wish to personally thank some very important people who are responsible for me standing here today:

Glenys Dickson, Tim Hurdle, Michelle Boag, and The Hon Roger Sowry – their wisdom, advice and sound, loyal counsel has guided me throughout my journey thus far.

My campaign team, under the leadership of Jeff Grant, John Wilson, and Glenys Dickson – we ran a spectacular campaign, and it was thanks to these fine people.

My electorate executive, under the leadership of Stuart Davies, Ailsa Smaill, Nigel Moore, and each of our loyal branch chairs and the Young Nats – thank you for all your hard work.

I would also like to congratulate my class of 2014 colleagues, all of whom I sincerely look forward to working with over the coming years.

But in particular, I want to pay special mention to my friend and previous colleague, Christopher Bishop – you ran a solid campaign, and I am truly glad to be working alongside you, once again.

Mr Speaker, while not growing up on a farm, I do come from a good Southland farming stock, and I hope to bring this down-to-earth approach to the House of Representatives.

Dating back to the early 1900’s, three generations on my mother’s side farmed sheep at South Hillend near Winton, and three generations on my father’s side were sheep farmers and trained race horses at Croydon, near Gore.

I was born in Gore, and my family moved to Dipton when I was about three. 

My parents had the 4 Square and mail run there, before moving back to Gore in time for my final year of primary school, and it was there where I completed the rest of my schooling.

I completed a Bachelor of Commerce in Wellington while working at Parliament, as an intern to Bill English, ministerial secretary to Gerry Brownlee, ministerial assistant briefly in the Prime Minister’s correspondence team – I think you were overseas at the time – and a political advisor to Hekia Parata.

I then moved to Auckland and worked in public relations and corporate affairs, before coming home when I won the selection.

My home, the electorate of Clutha-Southland stretches from Waihola and Taieri Mouth on the east coast to Milford Sound in the west.

Our people vary from the farmers and service providers in and around Tuatapere, Otautau, Winton, and Gore, Lawrence, Balclutha, and Milton. To the tourist operators in and around Queenstown, Arrowtown, Glenorchy,Te Anau, Manapouri, and the Catlins.

We also have innovators, entrepreneurs, and professionals engaged in business throughout the length and breadth of the electorate.

All of these communities have differing social needs and local issues – and deserve my unique representation.

Despite such a large number of the residents of Clutha-Southland living in our larger centres the major influence in the electorate remains decidedly rural. This is something not to be forgotten.

The primary sector is still the backbone of this country, and of our economy, and I look forward to making a strong contribution on the primary production select committee.

I consider Clutha-Southland particularly fortunate though, because in addition to our strong provincial foundation, we include a world-class tourism industry which plays a pivotal role in shaping our nation’s proposition to the World.

Queenstown’s unique – among other things, we’re incredibly lucky, that unlike many other parts of the country, our challenge is managing the pace of growth and development, not generating it.

Mr Speaker, I want to talk about the areas where I intend to make my main contribution.

There are three main areas that are, in my view, fundamental to future growth and prosperity in Otago and Southland. I intend to make a difference in these areas:

1.   The Primary Sector. As a region, we are heavily reliant on a strong, high quality and productive primary sector, and a savvy supporting service industry. Innovation and a drive to keep doing better is crucial in order to keep pace with a growing international demand.

2.   Second, in order to move forward, attracting and retaining more innovative, skilled and qualified workers down South is essential.  To achieve this, we need to systematically lift achievement at each point throughout the education pipeline.

It is here I want to acknowledge the Minister of Education, The Hon Hekia Parata. I strongly admire her relentless passion and conviction to bring out the very best in every teacher and school, and keeping our best teachers in the classroom, so that they in turn can bring out the very best in every Kiwi kid.

If you want an example of someone who is truly in politics for the right reason – she is that person. I look forward to joining you in this pursuit as a member of the education and science select committee.

Cause as you say – if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

3.   And my third interest is trade. This is what motivates and drives our demand for primary sector growth and workforce enhancement.

We need to be constantly looking for opportunities to expand our export market base, which is why concluding a strong, dynamic TPP is critically important for the prosperity of my electorate and the country.

And as the people of Queenstown understand only too well, tourism is an important element.

New Zealand’s reputation and the experiences our visitors have while they’re here plays an important role in how the world perceives our country.

It helps that we have an outstanding Minister of Tourism, who understands the strength and dynamism of our tourism proposition and is leading the charge in attracting more and more high-value tourists.

My electorate’s tourism offering opens some pretty big doors and paves the way for a number of flow-on trade and economic benefits we as a country enjoy.

If I can contribute in any way to the delivery of tangible gains across primary industries, education, trade, and tourism and how they interact and intersect, during my time in this place, I’ll be proud to have helped enhance my region, and our country’s ability to grow its economic potential.

That is why provincial people deserve a strong voice in Parliament and in Government, on an equal footing to the representation enjoyed by those living in New Zealand’s larger centres.

I believe the key to the strength and success of the National Party in the future is to ensure that our party’s two core, indeed at times competing followings – urban-liberal-leaning New Zealand  and rural-conservative-leaning New Zealand – both continue to enjoy strong representation on an equal footing  in the highest ranks of our Party.

Because it’s important that we remain balanced in our views, realistic in our expectations, and resonant with middle New Zealand, that’s why I believe that our Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, John Key and Bill English, make an exceptional, complementary team.

Mr Speaker, Rt Hon David Carter, when I stand before you in this House, representing my view and the view of my people I do so with an appreciation of the true honour and responsibility that privilege brings.

I do so with the intention of being a strong, fair-minded, and informed legislator.

Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, when I stand before you in your Caucus, representing my view and the view of my people I do so with an appreciation of the true honour and responsibility that privilege brings. I do so with the intention of being a strong, fair-minded and informed member of your Caucus.

Parliamentary colleagues, for those of you unaccustomed to the Deep South,  let me introduce you to the people I humbly represent:

The people of Clutha-Southland exemplify the best of New Zealand. Of course, I would say that!

We are conservative yet innovative, astute yet modest, quiet yet ambitious, hardworking yet social. We are proud New Zealanders.

Our values are straight forward, straight talking, uncomplicated in our views, accountable to our actions, solid in our beliefs.

My values are simple. They are based on personal responsibility, free enterprise, and choice.

These are the values I will represent in our Parliament, Mr Speaker.

As British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said: “We want a society where people are free to make choices, to make mistakes, to be generous, and compassionate. This is what we mean by a moral society; not a society where the state is responsible for everything, and no one is responsible for the state.”

For my part, I believe that freedom and choice are fundamental rights of all New Zealanders. But we, as individuals, need to be responsible for the choices we make and for the actions we take.

Mr Speaker, I promise my constituents that as their MP, I will act in order to preserve those values that they hold dear. And let there be no misunderstanding, I will act, and it begins today.

I understand that my leadership as a representative requires much more than acting with no conscience.  I genuinely believe in my electorate’s values, and believe in my people. I will represent my constituency honestly and strongly.

It is here I want to acknowledge the Hon Gerry Brownlee.

I had the privilege of working for Gerry over Pike River and for part of the Canterbury Earthquakes. Gerry, it is your true selflessness, humble wisdom, and unconditional loyalty to the people of Canterbury that I believe, will see the history books mark you down as one of New Zealand’s greatest political leaders.

Mr Speaker, in the place that I call home we believe in phrases like individual responsibility, hard work, and equal opportunity.

Clutha-Southland is a microcosm of the National Party. We are a microcosm of heartland New Zealand.

As I begin my political career, I ask myself the question – what type of country do we want to be in 20 years’ time?

I know what type of country I believe in – a dynamic, innovative, determined country. Forward looking and forward thinking. That is the vision of my generation.

I am 24 years old. Like Marilyn Waring, Simon Upton, and Nick Smith once were – I am the youngest Member of this House.

People at my age are making choices that will affect them for the rest of their lives. They are marrying, buying houses, establishing career paths, and having children. It is important that when we are in this House we consider these people. I hope that I will provide a voice for my generation in this place

Although some young people might not realise it, politics and the other things that governments do affect all our lives.  Therefore, we must be in constant pursuit of delivering strong, stable, decisive government.

Consistent government; predictable government. That’s what we aim for and aim to deliver as part of Team Key.

It is an exciting future built on a platform of six years of good government.

I think it’s important and I will aspire to maintain those standards so that the senior generation can thrive; so that my generation can thrive; so that future generations can thrive.

In 1990, the year I was born, Simon William English came into this House. I’m the same age as his second oldest son, Thomas. He and I went to the same Play Group. I’ve literally known Bill and the family all of my life. And I want to acknowledge him, as the most humble, selfless, focused politician I’ve ever met.

The Hon Bill English, along with his wife Dr Mary English, and their family have served the people of Clutha-Southland very well for 24 years.

They are people of true heart, and true courage. That makes them truly heroic in the eyes of us all.

As our local MP, Bill was never afraid to stand up to those he opposed.

He was, and continues to be, a man of judgment who understands what really matters. He was, and continues to be, a man of integrity who would never run out on the principles he believes in, or the people who believe in him.

And he was, and continues to be, a man who understands the trust of those whose hopes he carries.

Bill English is a man devoted to serving the public interest. Thank you, for representing us proudly and strongly and setting such a high standard that I will strive to live up to.

To the good people of Clutha-Southland, as we look forward and begin shaping our future, we must never forget where we’ve came from, nor the people whose blood sweat and tears founded the path which we walk on today. Nor, should we lose touch with the present.

As I look up to the Gallery here today, I see a group of people who mean the world to me.

My family: mum Maree, dad Paul, sister Kelsey, Brodie Andrews and Margaret Williamson. As they all know only too well, politics is my passion.

The highest tribute I can pay to my family is that each of you are people of warmth, support and loyalty, and unconditional love.

Living up to the values you possess is what continues to make me strive to make you proud.

Without you all, I wouldn’t be here today. And it is the thought of you that will bring me back here tomorrow.

Now’s the time for me to stop talking and to start serving.

For as long as the people of Clutha-Southland will have me my time is their time – this is their time.

Mr Speaker, I am from them. I am them. And I am proud to be representing them!


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