After Attack World Needs Leadership, Ardern is Providing it

Published March 21st, 2019 - 06:00 GMT
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (AFP)
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (AFP)

Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten should look to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for lessons on leadership, experts have claimed.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has impressed many international onlookers with her handling of the Christchurch mosque shootings.

White supremacist Brenton Tarrant, 28, allegedly shot and killed 50 people at two mosques in the city on Friday, injuring dozens more in the worst terrorist attack to ever hit the usually-peaceful nation.

Ms Ardern, 38, donned a hijab as she embraced those mourning the loss of loved ones, and was swift to call for New Zealand's lax gun laws to be strengthened in the wake of the attack.

Dr Paul Williams, senior lecturer at Griffith University, said Australian Prime Minister Mr Morrison and Opposition Leader Mr Shorten should take a page out of Ms Ardern's book.

'The polls say that most Australian voters don't see Shorten or Morrison as terribly inspiring leaders. We're not looking at Bob Hawke or John Howard here,' he told Daily Mail Australia.

Dr Williams said Ms Ardern's response to the shootings seemed to be '100 per cent' genuine.

'For a long time in Australian politics, we've seen leaders role playing,' he said.

'Ardern seems to be 100 per cent authentic - our leaders don't appear to be as authentic.

'So much of public policy [in Australia] is done through cost management analysis - will this get or lose me votes.'

Dr Williams said Ms Ardern's empathetic response to the shootings was impressive.

'To be genuinely, 100 per cent empathetic is very important. Voters want leaders who are like them,' he said.

'That's been demonstrated in [Ms Ardern's] warm embrace of Muslims, but also in her wearing the hijab, which was a genuine signal that ''we're all in this together''.

'Her harshest critics would see it as grandstanding but most people would've seen it as a genuine connection.'

Ms Ardern has shown her humility throughout the days following the attack by focusing on the plight of the victims and a nation in mourning, Dr Williams said.

'She's a very humble woman. She seemed tickled pink that a student during a school visit would ask her how she was doing,' he said.

'She said she was sad but she moved on quickly to talk about others.

'She's obviously under stress... we don't like our politicians to be too polished.'

Dr Williams said voters were initially impressed by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd when he spoke without pausing or stumbling over his words, but the electorate eventually came to see it as unrelatable.

'We like people who are just like us, but are a bit better than us,' Dr Williams said.


He said Ms Ardern's gender did not play a major role in how she was perceived.

'She didn't do anything that a man couldn't do - but underneath that there are gender and cultural stereotypes that women are more caring,' he said.

Her lack of self-interest - 'the big killer in Australian politics' according to Dr Williams - also stood out.

'She's been measured. It could be easy to overreach... by being too emotional,' he said.

'A lot of sexist people think that a woman can't be a strong leader - but here's proof that they can. She's a natural leader.'

Dr Williams said her decision to not name the alleged gunman was 'absolutely' the right one.

'He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless,' Ms Ardern said in an address to parliament in Wellington on Tuesday.

Dr Stewart Jackson, a politics lecturer the University of Sydney, said Ms Ardern's 'statements and presence' were qualities that should be matched by Australian politicians.

'She's shown honesty, grace... and renounced the politics of hate. Our politicians get themselves in knots trying to blame others,' he said.

'If we are a multicultural society - and we are... then stop falling into the trap of talking about immigration because of housing affordability.

'Politicians can moderate their language and stay moderated... don't walk into these conspiracy areas.'

Dr Jackson said New Zealanders felt Ms Ardern was a true representative of theirs.

'Ms Ardern speaks for a majority of New Zealanders - she's their Prime Minister. I don't think Morrison and Shorten have achieved that yet,' he said.

'There's been outpourings of the feeling that ''we will not be pushed over''. You see students doing a haka for their schoolmates.

'She's a positive voice. It's not a really tough approach... she realises people need a moment to grieve.'

Dr Jackson compared Ms Ardern's decisive actions on gun control to those of former Australian Prime Minister John Howard following the Port Arthur massacre in April 1996.

'One of John Howard's early triumphs was Port Arthur - he took action very quickly, he had to take the lead and he did show leadership,' Dr Jackson said.

'People could identify that it was authentic. It was a real response - people want a real response.' 

The Project host Lisa Wilkinson and 13-year-old Muslim girl Summer Joyan are among a score of Australians who have called for Ms Ardern to take control of both countries either side of the Tasman Sea and become Prime Minister of Australia. 

'I'm sure you will remain Prime Minister of New Zealand for a long time. But if not, do you think maybe you could move to Australia and become our Prime Minister? That would be a dream come true,' Summer wrote in an open letter published by the ABCon Thursday.

Wilkinson said Ms Ardern had shown 'real, engaged, compassionate and powerful leadership'.

'May our own politicians here in Australia, as they stand on the brink of an election, please take notes, learn from her, and try to outdo her, in her empathy, integrity, unity and decisive action,' she wrote for 10 Daily.

'But until then, do you think she'd adopt us?'

Others took to Twitter to express their admiration for Ms Ardern's response to the terrorist attack.

'Jacinda Ardern you aren't our Prime Minister here over the water but in times of chaos and need we will look to you before we look to our own,' one person said.

'My goodness Jacinda Ardern is a wonderful leader and should be celebrated. I like many wish she was our leader,' another Australian said. 

Before becoming the world's youngest female leader, Ms Ardern was a DJ, performing a 45-minute set at Auckland's Laneway music festival in 2014.

She also performed at her local Real Groovy record store, playing the Spice Girls, The Beatles, Iggy Pop and Snoop Dogg from her Macbook. 

On Thursday, Ms Ardern announced that New Zealand would ban all military-style weapons and assault rifles.

'On 15 March our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place,' Ms Ardern said. 

'All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned.

'I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride.'


This article has been adapted from its original source.     

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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