Stronger leadership required from Ardern as Government wobbles

It has been a wobbly few weeks for the Government, with problems and embarrassments involving all parties, Labour, NZ First and the Greens. A common factor is what looks like weak leadership from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has supported her own faltering MPs and dismissed problems from her support party ministers, saying mistakes will be made and they just need to be learnt from.

RNZ: Govt ‘will try to weed out mistakes’ – Ardern

Jacinda Ardern said mistakes will happen from time to time.

“With all of these cases they are, within context, issues that easily occur when you have an extraordinary amount of workflow coming through”.

“We will try to weed out mistakes wherever they may occur and prevent them from happening.”

“Ministers of all stripes make mistakes we’ve just got to make sure we correct them quickly.”

To an extent she is right, mistakes will happen and they need to be corrected – but too many mistakes are surfacing in a short period of time. The Government (and Ardern) risk an air of incompetence taking hold.

The most prominent mistake maker recently has been Clare Curran, who has featured in a lot of news for two weeks now. And it may not be the end of it yet, if RNZ’s Richard Griffin is forced to hand over a phone call recording.

ODT editorial: Fuller explanation needed from Curran

Ms Curran had nine years of Opposition in which to formulate her strategy in her much-beloved broadcasting and communications roles. Her role in open government and transparency was expected to pave the way for easier access to official information.

However, this has not been the case.

Ms Curran has survived in her job, despite at first not owning up to what was a planned, rather than casual, meeting.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern accepted Ms Curran’s explanation she was not seeking to undermine the RNZ chairman Richard Griffin, a National Party appointee, or chief executive Paul Thompson.

New Zealanders are still in the dark about exactly what Ms Curran was planning.

It behoves Ms Curran to  set the full record straight. She seems to be hiding details, and a senior RNZ executive has resigned. Ms Ardern has been tolerant and could well have made an example of Ms Curran.

Unless she takes some firm action before she takes maternity leave, the situation may become even worse when NZ First leader Winston Peters takes over as prime minister in her absence.

The ODT also points out other problems:

Ms Ardern is being badly let down by those around her. Apart from Ms Curran, New Zealand First ministers Shane Jones and Ron Mark have been called to account for their comments or actions. The Green Party Minister for Women, Julie Ann Genter called for old white men to make way in boardrooms. And the head of the Environmental Protection Agency Dr Alan Freeth was called before a select committee to talk about his interactions with Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage.

More from Stuff’s Below the beltway: The week in politics

Down

Clare Curran

The Prime Minister is maintaining she is still confident in Curran, and to Curran’s credit she’s continued to front the media to discuss the ongoing RNZ saga. But calling board chair Richard Griffin – even if the call was as innocent as she claims – about his select committee appearance smacks of political interference. It was also a great way to give legs to a story that was beginning to die out.

Phil Twyford

Twyford is one of the more reliable ministers to deliver wins, but his big transport re-alignment was badly signalled and badly managed. By announcing the excise tax increase as “10c over three years” – instead of “3c a year for three years, just continuing what the last guys were doing” – he handed the opposition an easy attack line. Combining this news with the ambitious transport plan just meant the actual transport plan got lost in the conversation.

Eugenie Sage

Sage is another minister one doesn’t expect to see in trouble very often. But emailing the head of the crown entity a critical opinion piece about their chief scientist with the subject line “great article” is a good way to get yourself into trouble, especially if the opposition found out. Giving Nick Smith a chance to look good attacking you is quite an achievement.

Add to that the Young Labour camp sexual harassment allegations – any inquiry into that may be reported on while Ardern is off-duty, with it being likely the Party management will try to handle outside of the parliamentary wing.

So there are a lot of mistakes to be corrected – and there is no clear sign that that is happening. Ardern is increasingly looking like more talk than action.

As has been mentioned, she is planning on stepping aside in June for six weeks when she has her baby. That’s just two months away, with her government’s first budget due out in later May. A lot will be riding on how that is presented and how their spending plans shape up.

And there is no guarantee that the baby will wait until June. Ardern has a busy life, which raises risks of stress, pregnancy complications and possibly an early birth.

One would hope that a Prime Minister could step aside for any reason and the Government would keep functioning without any problems, but it’s hard to have confidence this will be the case.

Winston Peters will take over as Acting Prime Minister. He has been a problem for Ardern over his odd motives over Russia. Three of his MPs have featured in the wobbles – Ron Mark, Jenny Marcroft and especially Shane Jones, plus an unnamed Minister (alleged to be involved in the Marcroft incident). Peters has been just trivialising these problems.

There are more weaknesses in Labour below Ardern. Kelvin Davis has been virtually anonymous as deputy since he made a mess of supporting Ardern during the campaign last year. He also has to make what is likely to be an unpopular decision soon on a new prison to cope with growing numbers locked up.

Robertson will be busy before and after his first budget, and is yet to prove himself.

The only Labour MP I can think of with sufficient experience and credibility to step up is David Parker, and as Minister of Trade he spends a lot of his time travelling around the world.

So Labour and the Government are looking weak, almost out of their depth in turbulent water, and especially given the ongoing revelations of mistakes they are vulnerable to falling from favour.

Ardern needs to show some stronger leadership, and hope that in her absence not too many mistakes are made.

We may get through this ok, but at the moment the Government wobbles are looking worrying, with a real risk wheels may fall off.

 

47 Comments

  1. Ray

     /  April 7, 2018

    I think that is a fair and even handed appraisal of the situation Peter.
    I worry (as much as I worry about other peoples life decisions ) about the PMs health, having a baby late in life, even with plenty of support, can be difficult, she doesn’t look well and this stuff can’t be helping.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  April 7, 2018

      I am not alone in thinking that the timing wasn’t sheer chance, as at 37 she must have had some idea of what causes it. It was, to me, a totally irresponsible action to have a first baby at this time, and I think that the country will suffer for this poor decision. Or the baby will, It’s nonsense to say that women are such great multi-taskers that we can do anything, Nobody can be a PM with the hours and responsibility and devote time to a new baby. Yes, other PMs have had families, but they were men who were not, by definition, giving birth to them.

  2. artcroft

     /  April 7, 2018

    I worry about Shane Jones. He has a billion dollars to spend and is clearly lazy and doesn’t give a shit. He comes across as a 55 year old teenager with a smart mouth.

    Worry is not the right word. Detest works better.

  3. Blazer

     /  April 7, 2018

    mostly trivial matters.Key was a one man band.As we now know Nationals trumpeting of its handling of the Christchurch earthquake as evidence of its competence, has been revealed as a complete shambles.
    Looking at the opposition,Mr Bridges has no cut through.The media are leading the charge as they are wont…to.

  4. We’ll need to rewrite the script for ‘Comedy of Errors’
    And employ better actors

  5. David

     /  April 7, 2018

    I worry for her and her babies health, clearly there is too much on her plate and if she decided to knock off earlier I for one would not criticise..hard enough for a 37 year old first time Mum let alone trying to run the country as well.

    • David

       /  April 7, 2018

      “a 37 year old first time Mum let alone trying to run the country as well.”

      The feminist dream.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 7, 2018

        Everyone else’s nightmare, you mean.

        I don’t know, of course, but I wonder if she has been too friendly….and not kept enough of a distance or been dignified enough with people. I have quoted before that familiarity breeds contempt, and it’s true. Be too familiar with people and you will lose their respect.

  6. David

     /  April 7, 2018

    I think the media are being quite demanding of her too, she has never shown any leadership skill or ambition and perhaps we should just accept that. All this talk of her having to get control and blah blah misses the point, if you want a smooth running, efficient and competent team then you need a boss that works twice as hard and is tough.
    Ardern seems like a lovely young woman but even if she had a few competent people around her still wouldnt be a leader, she just isnt one.

    • David

       /  April 7, 2018

      “if you want a smooth running, efficient and competent team then you need a boss that works twice as hard and is tough.”

      Neither of these things are required for good leadership, but they can substitute.

    • Blazer

       /  April 7, 2018

      what examples can you give of ….’a boss that works twice as hard and is tough’?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  April 7, 2018

      David and David, could you possibly rename yourselves as David A and David B ? 🙂 I suppose that one could reply to Blue David or Pink David.

      I am sceptical of the idea that she didn’t want to be leader. She could have refused or stepped down when she realised what was involved. She must have wanted it.

      The press are right to make demands, she is (Heaven help us) the prime minister and if she isn’t up to the job, she can’t expect to have excuses made. There is too much at stake for the whole country to let the sort of incompetency that she and Labour are showing to be glossed over and excused.

  7. Gerrit

     /  April 7, 2018

    Love the Spinoff articles final wild card odds for Jacinda Ardern to be the first to sacked

    “Jacinda Ardern

    The prime minister herself could be the first to go, under the following circumstances:

    She goes on maternity leave, and Winston Peters is formally sworn in as Prime Minister
    Winston Peters decides he quite likes being Prime Minister.
    Ardern returns as scheduled, only to be pre-emptively sacked by Prime Minister Winston Peters.”

    Love it.

  8. Zedd

     /  April 7, 2018

    just a reminder; its a THREE party coalition.. not a one man band (with a band of YES-men.. like the last mob.. 9 LOOOOOONG years) :/

    • PDB

       /  April 7, 2018

      Don’t think we need a reminder Zedd, the evidence of how dysfunctional this new govt is in the news on a daily basis.

    • Gezza

       /  April 7, 2018

      The last government was a three party coalition too. As circuses go, it didn’t have as many clowns as early on as this one does.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 7, 2018

        Call me psychic, but I think somehow that this term will not be remembered as NZ’s golden age of politics.

  9. David

     /  April 7, 2018

    Ardern does not have any leadership skills. Expecting this from her is simply pointless.

    • Blazer

       /  April 7, 2018

      she has already shown she has what it…takes…how many Davids are there here …today?

      • PDB

         /  April 7, 2018

        “she has already shown she has what it…takes…”

        Yes – well suited to head an inept govt.

      • Gezza

         /  April 7, 2018

        I don’t think she has shown that. She didn’t have any leadership ambitions, remember? Others had to suggest it & push her into the leader role because Andrew Little was slaughtering the party in the polls, and on tv, despite what the hundreds of ‘ordinary kiwis he spoke to every day’ were supposedly telling him.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  April 7, 2018

          People are not forced into these positions. I find it hard to believe that she had to be pushed, there would be untold others willing to take the plum job, She couldn’t say that she had leadership ambitions when AL was leader, nobody could be that blatant and tactless, but I have an impression that she didn’t rule it out at some future time.

    • PDB

       /  April 7, 2018

      Many compare Ardern to Key but unlike Ardern Key knew what he was talking about, worked hard/ was on top of policy, and had full control over his govt. Ardern is simply a friendly face for backwards thinking.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 7, 2018

        It’s a meaningless comparison, isn’t it ?

        The difference could not be greater !

  10. PartisanZ

     /  April 7, 2018

    Ardern is exactly the kind of leader we need for the future of politics and the coming ‘new democracy’ IMHO, forsaking old models of authoritarian, ‘strong’ or idolized leadership for a more team approach.

    It’s a great pity some members of her ‘team’ aren’t onboard with it … and that the old hierarchical model lingers so staunchly in the media and in the populace …

    That’s the same populace, by the way, who have been ‘reforming’, restructuring, rebranding, going to workshops [at enormous expense] and paying lipservice to ‘new paradigm’ corporate team-building for going-on 35 fucken years!!!

    Seems things filter up about as much as they do trickle down!?

    All three coalition partners should be doing coalition-affirming stuff. If bringing that about means carving out some rot Jacinda should just get it over with … The PGF is a very good thing for Aotearoa NZ … but it doesn’t need to be Jonesy who disburses the money …

    • Gezza

       /  April 7, 2018

      If Jacinda is the kind of leader we want, you are looking at the kind of people who will let her take that job, & how they regard & treat a leader like that.

      • PartisanZ

         /  April 7, 2018

        Not sure what you mean Gezza?

        • Gezza

           /  April 7, 2018

          In my first promotion to a management job I decided I wanted to hold tpregular meetings and make decisions as often as posdible by consensus. Frackin disastrous idea, when I learned how many of the staff hated each other, or just didn’t want to cooperate.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  April 7, 2018

            I remember at the school I relief-taught at that there was a teacher who was very popular with the pupils – but he was also keen on old-fashioned discipline like lining up to go into the classroom. He had a good, friendly relationship with the pupils, but he was the one who was in charge overall. He would decide when a discussion or joke was over,

            Leadership needs to be like this, I think.

            I always remember one older teacher whose class asked him to let them out early from the last class before Easter, Yes, if someone gave him an Easter egg. Someone had one, handed it over and he kept his word.

            • Gezza

               /  April 7, 2018

              That job was the last one I went for with responsibility for managing staff. I knew that if I ever took another one I’d have to be a sole decision-maker & develop a thick skin if staff weren’t happy I wouldn’t be played off against their colleagues ever again.

              Once you let that happen to often – as I did – it’s too difficult to then turn round and be a hard-arse. It didn’t work. We got restructured & I got out of it that way. Thank God. 😖

            • PartisanZ

               /  April 7, 2018

              @Miss Kitty – “Leadership needs to be like this, I think.”

              And the world is like it is because of leadership like this …

              School, for instance, has clearly failed to maintain leadership like this in the face of major shifts in social norms including both educational norms and leadership models …

              After 35 plus fucken years of reforming, rebranding, restructuring, attending workshops, sitting in open-plan offices and doing team-building exercises we want what …?

              A return to the old ways of leadership …

              Well, FFS, tariffs and subsidies worked quite well back then too!

              And Gezza, all this angst and shit in the workplace and it never occurs to anyone that it might be people just don’t want to do those jobs … They don’t want to be there …?

              They don’t necessarily hate each other except insomuch as they hate the money system having driven them to do this job they dislike or detest or loath alongside these people they don’t know and don’t care about …

              All these problems with school … like truancy … I wonder if its possible the truants just don’t want to fucken-well be at school!? Bullies react to fucken hating school by becoming bullies? Victims of bullying react to fucken hating school by becoming victims?

              Workplace bullies? Workplace victims?

              I wonder if its possible that the schools and workplaces we’re talking about are just fucken unnatural?

              And there’s a particular kind of “Leadership” which keeps all this locked in place?

              Hence, this style of leadership is ……………

              …. A WITCH!!!

            • Gezza

               /  April 7, 2018

              @PZ

              Nah it’s just people in groups, I reckon. Just the way some people are. In the case I was talking about when I took over I realised all sorts of jobs & issues that should have been taken care of by my predecessor hadn’t been – because it would’ve caused too many arguments amongst a group of people who had heard nothing but praise from her – to the point they were actually sick of it: it was disingenuous anyway – and who would rather head for the hills or demand their own way rather than cooperate any longer. It had been a 12 month long project job, and they were promised things that never happened.

              In any group there’s always some who just can’t stand someone else, or someone who gets surly and takes it out on others when they can’t get their own way, or who just get nasty if they’re the type who can’t stand being disagreed with. It doesn’t show up in Team Building type events. It shows up after they’ve been working together for a while.

              You think you’ve got a happy team and then realise they hate each other and it’s been building up for some time & either the manager was unaware or they had a parachute. It’s quite common I think.

              Our union members were the worst. I only found that out when I was their union rep for a year. Christ. What a shower of shit they could be. As bad as the management. Lazy arses. Luddites. Wanted to load your gun with their bullets and then duck for cover.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  April 8, 2018

              There’s often someone who has to be a saboteur, if only in a small way, I remember a really successful ice-breaker that I did when I was training to be an Adult Teacher and we all had to do one. I remembered one that was great fun and did it for mine…and it was going really well until someone deliberately ruined it. They did it wrong and it was impossible to start again and keep the mood right.

              I also remember working in a place that had tale-tellers (adults as tale-tellers, how pathetic)

            • Gezza

               /  April 8, 2018

              Are they what we used to call tittle tattles?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  April 8, 2018

              Probably. I made two essential phone calls to my previous place and made the mistake of exchanging a few friendly sentences with the person at the other end….this was reported back as making long personal phone calls. One day I was ill and someone took me to the doctor and chemist afterwards. I was seen propping up the chemist’s door as I waited to be collected. This, too, was reported when someone saw me, I wasn’t ill at all, I was out and about in town. There were other incidents, and it was NOT a pleasant place to work.

              Spite like that is hard to understand. I can be spiteful, but not gratuitously like that.

    • David

       /  April 7, 2018

      “It’s a great pity some members of her ‘team’ aren’t onboard with it”

      The purpose of a leader is to bind a team and get them moving in the desired direction. It’s her fault members of her team are not onboard with her project.

      • PDB

         /  April 7, 2018

        Poor managers appoint people who will pose no threat to them – hence Winston made his choice of PM.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  April 7, 2018

          You are probably right. He would have known that National would not let him get away with what Labour has, so his negotiations look even more sinister than they did before.

          We haven’t heard any more about the court cases that he was planning all the time that he was supposedly negotiating with National.

      • PartisanZ

         /  April 7, 2018

        @David – “The purpose of a leader is to bind a team and get them moving in the desired direction. It’s her fault members of her team are not onboard with her project.”

        Nope, that’s the purpose of a slave-driver, authoritarian puppet master or dictator. It’s the team members fault just as much or more as it is hers because its all of their’s project, not just hers.

        Otherwise they might as well be wooden dolls … or ventriloquists dummies …

        • Gezza

           /  April 8, 2018

          In any group you’re in there’ll be a leader. Someone who imost influences the group, or who most often does. Others will respond accordingly to that person’s authority, even when there’s consensus decision-making (which is often consensus agreement with a leader’s). If you think there’s no leader in a group you’re part of, for that one it might even might be you.

          • Gezza

             /  April 8, 2018

            Damn – I proof-read that !
            * imost = most

        • David

           /  April 8, 2018

          “Nope, that’s the purpose of a slave-driver, authoritarian puppet master or dictator. It’s the team members fault just as much or more as it is hers because its all of their’s project, not just hers.”

          You have a profound misunderstanding of both leadership and human beings.

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