A country known for advocating for progress, change and improvement as opposed to wishful thinking, New Zealand has been a trailblazer in many important milestones: women’s rights, the environment and employment rights.
The woman leading this movement of progressive change is none other than Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. Her empathetic leadership after the Christchurch shooting in March 2019 was highlighted with images of a despairing hijab-wearing Ardern embracing Muslim New Zealanders. She went above and beyond and even consoled bereaved families after the Whakaari White Island eruption that December; and addressed the UN General Assembly while her fiancé Clarke Gayford cuddled their four-month-old daughter Neve in September 2018.
Her compassionate approach to politics – where “success is measured not only by the nation’s GDP but by better lives lived by its people” – has caused many to see New Zealand as a bastion of progressive government.
Diverse Cabinet of Ministers
In October 2020, Ardern unveiled what she called an ‘incredibly diverse’ cabinet. According to SBS News, New Zealand’s new 120-seat parliament features 12 LGBTQ+ MPs, up from seven last year, making the country home to the queerest parliament in the world. Ibrahim Omer, a former refugee from Eritrea, has also made history by becoming New Zealand’s first African MP.
Former Finance Minister Grant Robertson was named Deputy Prime Minister, the first openly gay person to hold the position. The Maori community and women were also represented in the 20-member cabinet, including new Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, a ‘moko kauae’ – a traditional Maori tattoo on her chin.
Policies And Legislation
The country has made some groundbreaking policies that the world needs to follow. The Prime Minister even handled the pandemic with such grace and panache that today New Zealand is one of the few countries that remain unaffected by the virus. Some of the legislation that we think are commendable are listed below.
Paid Leave For Couples
In March 2021, New Zealand’s Parliament unanimously approved legislation that gave couples who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth three days of paid leave, putting the country in the vanguard of those providing such benefits. It was only the second country in the world with this legislation.
Raised Minimum Wage
New Zealand is planning to raise its minimum wage to $20 an hour and increase the country’s highest earners’ top tax rate to 39%. The government estimates it will bring in an additional $550m in revenue this year.
The changes were rolled out in March 2021, along with small increases to sickness benefits and unemployment. The government estimated the minimum wage increase – a rise of $1.14 per hour – would affect 175,500 workers and increase wages across the economy by $216m.
The Zero-Carbon Bill
The government pushed to indoctrinate its Paris climate change targets into law to show its commitment to fighting the threat of climate change. The centre-right, opposition National party, voted for it and devised a plan to tax farmers for their emissions from 2025 or earlier if they are not making progress on reductions. The Green Party Co-Leader and Climate Change Minister, James Shaw, was the policy’s architect.
Sexual And Domestic Violence Laws
In 2018, a new law brought by the Green party enabled domestic violence victims to take ten days of paid leave from work over their regular holiday entitlements. The government also passed a law making strangulation a separate offence to common assault. It also pledged to create solutions to family violence holistic, multi-agency responses.
In conclusion, we would like to quote the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, “We aspire to be a government for all New Zealanders and one that will seize the opportunity to build a fairer, better New Zealand.” And we must applaud her efforts to keep with her promises and truly make the country one of the most progressive countries in the world.