Hipkins to take parental leave from Parliament

Not long ago Jacinda Ardern took leave from Parliament when she had her baby. Winston Peters took over as acting Prime Minister for eight weeks (and things seemed to tick over ok).

A week ago Green MP and Minister Julie Anne Genter had a baby and is currently on leave.

So it shouldn’t be a big deal that Chris Hipkins has announced that he will take four weeks parental leave when his second child is ‘born’ (by C-section).

This is the first time a male Minister has taken baby time out to this degree (I’m sure Ministers will have taken a bit of time out when babies have been born).

NZH:  Education Minister Chris Hipkins plans to take parental leave from Beehive for baby No. 2

Education Minister Chris Hipkins is planning to take up to four weeks paternity leave after the birth of his next baby at the end of the month.

“The main priority really will be to support the baby’s mum because the baby will be born by C-section”.

That means being around to do the heavy lifting, quite literally the heavy lifting.”

The baby will be the second for Hipkins and partner Jade.

He will also be spending time looking after the couple’s first child, Charlie, who turns two in October.

Hipkins says he already spends quality time with Charlie every morning with him, getting him up, having breakfast together and dropping him at day care.

The new baby will be subject to the same publicity regime as Charlie, who has no public photos, including on Face Book.

Hipkins: “I want him to be able to grow up like a normal Kiwi kid and I want him to have his own space to grow up and be a kid and not be public property. I accept that I am public property. That doesn’t mean that my family are.”

Hipkins will continue to be paid his ministerial salary – as Jacinda Ardern was when she took time off. There is no mechanism to stop MPs’ pay and they are not eligible for the ordinary paid parental leave scheme.

MPs are lucky that they can take time out for their families.

Hipkins has a heavy workload as:

  • Minister of Education
  • Minister of Ministerial Services
  • Minister of State Services
  • Leader of the House

Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin will pick up most of Hipkins’ education work. Iain lee-Galloway will take over Leader of the House duties. And State Services and Ministerial Services will be farmed out to others.

He was also given extra responsibilities after Clare Curran removed from Cabinet ten days ago:

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins will take back the Open Government responsibilities which were delegated to Hon Curran.

“The CTO appointment process is in its final stages. Minister Curran will have no further involvement in it and State Services Minister Hipkins will take over that process and finalise the details of the appointment and the implementation of the CTO role.

“Minister Hipkins has asked the State Services Commission to take a look at the CTO appointment process to ensure it has been robust, and that the meeting between Ms Curran and Mr Handley had no bearing on the process or outcome. The SSC will report back next week before the appointment process is concluded.

The CTO appointment should be dealt with by next month when Hipkins plans to take leave.

Open Government responsibilities may be put on hold. It shouldn’t make much difference, ‘open government’ was a bit of a joke under Curran.

Ardern taking leave showed that no Minister is indispensable – others should be able to take over when anyone needs to be absent.

It has happened before due to illness. In September 2016 then Minister Nikki Kaye took several months leave from Parliament to be treated for breast cancer. She resumed duties in early 2017.

Taking a few weeks off work is a privilege for MPs, many ordinary people are not in financial or employment situations that are so generous.

But it is a sign of more sensible times when MPs and ministers can take time off when they have children, whether they be male or female.

Speaker demands that media censor baby coverage in Parliament

Ahead of Jacinda Ardern’s return to Parliament next week (she ‘returned to work’ yesterday but seems to have worked from home in Auckland) the Speaker Trevor Mallard has warned media off acting like paparazzi in Parliament – fair enough.

The ban only applies to baby Neve and not to Ardern.

But Mallard has also threatened severe repercussions for ‘accididental’ or incidental shots of Ardern’s baby, and this is quite controversial, especially to the degree Mallard has explained it.

Stuff: Warning to journalists who take unauthorised photos of returning Jacinda Ardern’s daughter Neve

Parliament’s Speaker Trevor Mallard has issued a warning to journalists planning to take unauthorised photos of returning Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s baby Neve.

The Parliamentary Press Gallery was informed that any journalists who took unauthorised photos would have their accreditation removed and their employer would also be penalised.

That’s harsh.

The only time photos or video featuring Neve could be taken are in a single specified area (level 1 foyer of Parliament House) or by invitation only.

That seems draconian.

A spokeswoman for the speaker said most parents who are members of Parliament might not want their childrens’ photos taken and as part of a family-friendly parliament, parents’ choices would be respected.

The rules were not new and all photos taken in the parliament precinct needed permission and that would continue to remain in place, she said.

Parliament’s filming and photography protocols apply to anyone seeking to film or interview politicians on the parliamentary precinct. Non-accredited people had to seek permission on a case-by-case basis.

So it seems to be a reinforcement of existing rules.

But media are allowed to film and photograph in parts of Parliament.

However, accredited journalists – the Press Gallery – had greater freedom of movement under the rules to interview, film or photograph MPs in some additional public areas.

The rules allowed Press Gallery journalists to film or photograph members on the parliamentary forecourt and steps, the level 1 foyer of Parliament House, corridors outside select committee rooms, the reception areas of Parliament and Bowen House, as well as outside the Beehive Banquet Hall.

This is where things get tricky. If the baby ends up in the background of an interview Mallard says that must be edited out – that is, part of the interview must not be shown.

I don’t think Ardern will pop up in shot with Neve when Kelvin Davis or Clare Curran are being interviewed to effectively censor the shots to save face.

But Ardern (and Gayford) must have some responsibility to remain discrete with Neve and avoid those parts of Parliament where filming may take place,

An interesting discussion and clarification on Twitter:

Newshub:  Speaker threatens to kick journalists out of Parliament over PM baby privacy

Graeme Edgeler: Is it required to delete like the text says, or prohibited from airing (so maybe blur, reaction shot, b-roll over audio etc?) like says in the audio? There’s a massive difference.

Reed Fleming: Good. Neve isn’t actually an elected member of Parliament and should be able to visit Parliament without being filmed – just like hundreds of members of the public do every day. Calm down.

Henry Cooke:yeah but if clarke walks past the background of a shot with Neve in his arms while a minister says something newsy it seems ridiculous that we would have to delete the video

Reed Fleming: A shot with Clarke walking past in the background, out of focus surely isn’t what the Speaker is targeting. Chasing them across the bridge probably is. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable or onerous rule to follow.

Henry Cooke: Yeah but Reed that exact example was actually brought up and he did say we would have to delete it.

Reed Fleming: that seems an absurd application of a reasonable rule. hope you’d broadcast that example regardless.

Graeme Edgeler: Henry confirms that the rule the Speaker has sought to impose is the stupid alternative of the two alternatives previously described. Don’t air it? Sure. Run a reaction shot? Sure. Blur the background? Sure. Delete the footage of eg a minister making a newsworthy statement. GTFO.

This may all be moot – if Ardern and Gayford don’t wander past when the cameras are rolling it may never come up.

Talking of censorship:

I know that Mallard had blocked me from his pre-speaker Twitter, but I don’t recall ever interacting with his @SpeakerTrevor account. I have no idea why he doesn’t want me to see what he tweets as Speaker. Is Parliament a secret society?

And – it’s a bit ironic that Mallard has banned baby shots but promotes himself with a baby photo. I think that’s the baby of an MP, taken in the House.

Ardern in action as Prime Minister again

Most of New Zealand will probably notice little if any difference, but Jacinda Ardern has resumed her duties as Prime Minister after taking six weeks of maternity leave.

Ardern will have to be careful to keep as much focus on her public role as possible, and keep her private life and baby as private as possible – unless she chooses to play the baby card as a distraction from issues facing the country.

And Ardern has a lot to try and get on top of.

A key cause of concern should be dropping business confidence, and warnings and symptoms that the New Zealand economy may be heading for tougher times.

Ardern’s Government has a number of poorly performing Ministers, so will need to show more leadership, and give some indication she can manage the ship.

Conveniently Winston Peters is disappearing overseas for a while, avoiding any chance of an awkward handover. This week Peters was showing signs that he had had enough of trying to appear like a respectable statesman, slipping back into his habits arrogance, petulance and combativeness.

So it’s now up to Ardern to show that she can focus on leading Government and running the country.

And the media should also focus on the important issues and the conduct of Government without getting dragged down into an obsession with baby stuff. I don’t know if they are capable of getting the balance right here.

Ardern needs to show that leadership is her priority. That could be challenging for her.

We will find out over the next few weeks how she manages being Prime Minister for the country alongside mother for her family.


MP mother wants more free travel for partners

MP Kiri Allen had a baby at about the same time she got into parliament via Labour’s list. She is trying to get more free travel for MPs with young children so they can have more time with their family together.

Every parent who works has to compromise on family time, it just goes with the job.

MPs already have fairly generous pay and travel allowances.

Stuff:  Mum MP calls for travel cap change to help politicians with babies

One of Parliament’s new parents, Kiri Allen, has argued for a cap on taxpayer-funded travel for MPs’ partners to be lifted for those with young babies.

While MPs’ partners used to be allowed unlimited travel to be with the MP, the so-called “perk” was cut back in 2014 after excessive use by some.

…the partners of ordinary MPs get 20 trips a year maximum while ministers’ partners get 30 trips a year. The caps are set by the Remuneration Authority and can only be used to accompany MPs on work-related travel.

Twenty free trips a year doesn’t sound too bad to me.

Allen said the cap was difficult when her baby was less than six months old as it restricted her partner and baby to visiting Wellington only once every six weeks at a time the family wanted to spend as much time together as possible.

Speaking to the Herald afterwards, she said she knew calls to widen the entitlements could be “politically unpalatable”.

“But that would be an amendment I would advocate for if we were striving to make Parliament more family-friendly. I would advocate for an amendment for people for those first six months of a baby’s life.”

She said the entitlement should also be extended to caregivers rather than just partners.

So parents with babies can have anyone they like travelling with them to help them?

Parliament sits for 30 weeks per year between Tuesday and Thursday, and MPs living out of Wellington get to fly home at the end of short weeks in Parliament so it is hardly a long amount of time apart from both parents.

And being a list MP Allen doesn’t have the weekend commitments that electorate MPs have. It really isn’t a very onerous job for a fback bench list MP.

Allen knew what sort of job she was putting herself forward for, and will have known she was pregnant when campaigning to become an MP. But she wants more perks laid on.

I think she is trying to push her working conditions too far.



Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford

To those who are interested, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford is leaving hospital this morning, if she gets past all the cameras and questions.

And as far as babies go, she does like very cute.

Having a first baby is a very special time for parents and family. I hope they manage to weather the media storm without too many problems.

Ardern finished with a word of thanks to the public. Jacinda and Clarke are looking very good together with their baby Neve.

Six week present for Ardern – time out

A fairly ironic opinion from an unnamed person at Stuff that seems to lack self awareness: Labour’s baby present? Let Jacinda be a mum for six weeks

The champagne corks were popping at the Beehive when news broke that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had delivered a baby girl. The path to the Sandringham home of Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford will be worn thin with cards and presents from her MPs.

Ardern’s new baby already has enough booties and onesies from well wishers across the country to have a choice of outfits every day of the week.

So the best present Labour MPs can give Ardern is time out. Which means they’re going to have to step up.

Ardern’s Government certainly has plenty of problems to deal with, and a number of Ministers seem to be struggling to cope with their jobs.

Notably, Ardern’s and Labour’s deputy Kelvin Davis seems very uncomfortable and unsuitable for that position.

But probably the biggest threat to Ardern getting reasonable quality of time as a new Mum for the next six weeks is the media.

Can the media give Ardern time out? there’s less chance of that than Government Ministers having a trouble free time in Ardern’s absence.

Of course this will in part depend on whether Ardern wants time out from the media for siz weeks.

We can expect a big flurry of coverage when Ardern leaves the hospital with her baby. That’s unavoidable – it has already been anticipated by Ardern.’

But if Ardern chooses then to make the most of quiet family time for six weeks, will her home be out of bounds to media? It should be unless specifically invited by Ardern.

Can the media give Ardern time out if she wants it?

Prime Minister having a baby is a big deal

Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford now have a baby daughter. This is a big deal to them personally, and it is also a big deal in ways for New Zealand, although it isn’t a big deal in the whole scheme of things.

Not a big deal

One baby born is a very small deal in the whole scheme of things. It’s something that happens to everyone.

Some statistics on births:

  • about 130 million babies born in the world per year (about 356,000 per day)
  • 59,610 births in New Zealand in 2017 (163 per day)
  • about 7200 births in Auckland City per year (about 19 per day)

So one birth is small fry.

A big deal on a personal level

The birth of a child is a very big deal for Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford.

The birth of a child, especially a first child, is one of the most significant events for most parents in their lifetime, if not the biggest deal.

I have experienced three births personally, and these were all a big deal for me, and they still are. My children are my biggest and proudest achievement.

A big deal on a national level

A Prime Minister having a child would be a big deal anywhere in the world, and it certainly is here.

It sends an important signal that having children is normal, and that women can have a child while keeping wider responsibilities and continuing in important jobs.

We can expect top see more of the integration of babies with Parliament. There are several MPs with babies, and Julie Anne Genter is pregnant, but Jacinda’s baby is likely to receive the most attention, probably by far.

Some buts…

But it should be pointed out that Ardern is in a privileged position. Most women don’t have the money or the work flexibility that she has. Ardern says she will continue to work while in ‘maternity leave’ so presumably will continue to be paid her $471,049 annual salary plus many expenses ($9,058 per week before tax).

It has been overhyped by some, especially manic media. That looks certain to continue.

Questions have been asked and will continue to be asked about how Jacinda and Clarke manage the media in relation to having a child. It is a difficult balancing act that will always attract criticism. Some may be justified. Most likely won’t be justified.  The worst is likely to come from people with political motives or political intolerance, a sad reality of politics in New Zealand.

Life will go on

Hopefully the baby will grow up without too many hiccups. Hopefully Jacinda and Clarke will manage their home\/work balance ok.

Hopefully Winston Peters will manage his extended responsibilities as acting Prime Minister ok.

Hopefully Ardern won’t suffer too much from any post-natal issues, and will be able to slot back in fully as Prime Minister after her maternity leave.

The country will keep chugging away, probably with minimal disruption.

And life will go on much as per normal for most of us, if we can manage to avoid the media obsession with celebrity and personal trivia – the birth of a child is a big deal to parents and close family, but most births are meaningless to most of us.


Ardern in hospital, Peters acting Prime Minister

Winston Peters is now acting Prime Minister.

Jacinda Ardern has gone into hospital so all going will will have her baby today or possibly tomorrow. A night time admission suggests natural labour has begun. I wish Ardern, her baby and her partner Gayford well.

The PM and party leaders don’t usually attend Parliament on Thursdays,. It will be interesting to see whether Peters is there – there is likely to be some sort of mention, depending on when the baby arrives.

There will be a question time (Oral Questions) today.

I am sure media will make a lot of announcements in the meantime.

RNZ: Winston Peters is in charge: His duties explained

The Prime Minister’s Office is on the ninth floor of the Beehive, where her staff will remain. Mr Peters is currently on the seventh floor and that’s where he and his staff will stay during the six weeks, working in close contact with the PMO.

She however will not be completely removing herself from the role, and will continue to receive all Cabinet papers and Cabinet committee papers, which means she can keep an eye on everything getting signed off at the highest level.

Ms Ardern wrote formally to Mr Peters last month outlining her expectations of their respective roles.

In the event of something of “significant political, strategic or public interest, or national security”, Ms Ardern would be consulted and involved in major decisions that might be needed.

Mr Peters will run the “day to day” business of the government, that includes the prime minister’s media and public engagements, chairing Cabinet and fronting Parliament’s question time.

He will be limited by decisions made by the Labour dominated Cabinet and then of course Parliament, which has to vote for any matter requiring legislative change.

Under these arrangements he will not have the ability to make any significant decision not already on the government’s agenda – if something urgent or significant comes up Ms Ardern will have some involvement.

The Cabinet Manual deals with the responsibilities of an acting Prime Minister in two short paragraphs:

“If the Prime Minister is unavailable or unable to exercise the statutory or constitutional functions and powers of the office, the deputy prime minister can, if necessary, exercise those powers and functions.

“As acting prime minister, the deputy prime minister may exercise other prime ministerial functions and powers, in consultation (where appropriate and practicable) with the prime minister.”

Peters is also Minister of Foreign Affairs. If he is out of the country Labour’s deputy leader Kelvin Davis will become acting Prime Minister.

Ardern staying close to home as birth date nears

The official due date for Jacinda Ardern’s baby is this weekend, June 17. Anyone who has been a parent will know that given dates are just a rough stab – my experience includes three 10-14 day ‘overdue’ babies.

Ardern has wisely chosen not to fly around the country any more, and will base herself in Auckland until the birth.

Stuff: Jacinda Ardern keeps permanent base in Auckland until after the birth of first child

The prime minister has restricted her flight schedule, keeping within driving distance of her home in Auckland as the due date for the birth of her child draws near.

At what was expected to be her final post-Cabinet press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced she would be based permanently within driving distance to Auckland.

She would continue to work primarily from Auckland, and still expected to attend Fieldays in Hamilton later in the week.

All appointments must be regarded as maybes over the next week or three.

Staying ‘within driving distance to Auckland’ could still be risky, given the state of Auckland traffic, but Ardern will only be travelling away from home for a small amount of the time.

The timing of many modern births is determined by medical intervention, either planned caesarean deliveries and inducements.

Many natural births begin at night. Stuff: What time of day are most babies born?

“Where nature is taking its course, infants are more likely to be born when it’s completely dark out,” said TJ Mathews, a demographer with the National Center for Health Statistics.

Researchers think evolution may have something to do with making the middle of the night an optimal time for delivery. Say you were pregnant and part of a nomadic tribe; having your baby in the middle of the day could mean the rest of the tribe leaves you behind as they move from place to place. “You probably bled to death,” said Aaron Caughey, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Medicine.

But in the middle of the night, when you and your fellow tribe members are presumably hunkered down somewhere safe, if you had your baby and started to bleed, “there would be someone to defend you against the lion that smelled the blood,” Caughey said.

Night timing may also be advantageous for Ardern – there may not be as many journalists sniffing her every move outside her home. When media smells blood they are likely to go into a story feeding frenzy.

Northcote by-election doesn’t rate in celebrity stakes

For most people the Northcote by-election is a non-event. The outcome will make virtually no difference to Parliament, and neither of the candidates with a realistic chance of winning are particularly inspiring.

They are campaigning more as local candidates than party representatives, predictably for a by-election, but this leaves national issues, and therefore issues of wider interest, largely out of the contest.

Snippets of claims about internal party polling, without full details of the polls, are being used as a campaign tool and can’t be given much credence.

Advance voting began a week and a half ago, with ‘election day’ – the final day for voting – this Saturday. The only aspect of real interest is the unusually large number of advance voters:

Voting numbers are well ahead of the election advance voting numbers. This is probably due to two factors – the increasing preference for early voting generally, plus the concentration of party operators in one electorate working to get out their voters. It’s impossible to know what this means for the various candidates.

Pre-result claims are being made about what a win will mean for either National or Labour, and what the majority will mean, but the latter particularly is fairly meaningless.

If the Labour candidate wins it will buck a tradition of the governing party being hammered in by-elections so they would get some bragging rights.

Both the likely winners are bland party candidates, or that’s how they look from a barely interested distance.

Greens also stood a candidate, presumably to assert their independence of Labour despite it making it harder for the Labour candidate to win. She looks like a capable candidate, but in the unlikely case of her winning she would add to the gender imbalance of the Green caucus even more, as they already have six female to two male MPs – the excuse this anomaly as necessary to provide better gender balance in parliament overall, but that seems a bit lame.

The media is only giving the big party contenders any significant coverage. This is undemocratic but normal for the media in elections – their own interests are severed ahead of fair balance.

There was a grizzle on Whale Oil yesterday – Northcote by-election Media party bias?

Of course the media are biased for some candidates and against others, but it’s not a party specific thing.

The full article mentions ACT candidate Stephen Berry but he is missing from the image.

The article (and tweet) did mention all eight candidates and only featured three in their photo – but the political activist blog chose only to highlight that lack of balance for the sole candidate they have been promoting, which is more biased than the media.

SB seems unaware of her hypocrisy. And also unaware of the chances of the ACT candidate. In response to someone quipping “They know ACT won’t get more than 20 votes” she responded:

Or they are worried that they might actually have a chance?

The candidate’s minimal chance is unlikely to have been helped by WO campaigning for him. Probably the opposite. A waning party promoted by a politically toxic and largely irrelevant activist blog does raise some questions about ACT’s desperation to be seen.

Whoever wins on Saturday will get a whiff of publicity but the largely disinterested public will take no notice as the new MP disappears onto a back bench of one side or the other.

I note that the Labour PR machine has chosen to give the media details of opportunities for another result due this weekend.

The timing of births is less predictable than the result of by-elections, but that’s likely to get a lot more attention than the by-election.

None of the Northcote candidates look likely to fit the celebrity billing that media are increasingly obsessed with.