What does a politician do on her birthday? She heads out into the cold, July morning for a 7am speaking engagement.
Jacinda Ardern, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, kicked off her 37th birthday celebrations last Wednesday with a guest speaker spot at the Rotary Club of Tawa’s inaugural business breakfast at The Borough.
Ms Ardern talked about her journey to becoming a politician. She began by covering a little of her early years and her experiences growing up in small town rural New Zealand that set her apart from most of her peers and on a path towards an affinity with Labour views. Even so she was a reluctant recruit, initially resisting invitations to stand for Parliament. She had experienced the system at work in the offices of Phil Gough and Helen Clark.
However, after spending time on her OE honing her political skills in UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Cabinet Office, in the British Home Office, and as president of the International Union of Socialist Youth, she was enticed back to successfully stand as a list MP for the Labour Party in the 2008 election.
Ms Ardern believes that most politicians are motivated by selfless reasons but, sometimes, compromises have to be made.
“Compromise is built into my DNA. In compromising you are not necessarily relinquishing your ideals. It just means sometimes it takes a little longer to implement what you would like.”
At times, there can arise a disconnect between the intentions of a law and what actually happens. Politicians often might approve a new bill and think they have fixed the problem but don’t necessarily follow through to ensure that there were no unintended consequences. She believes it is important for politicians to keep in touch with their constituencies to understand this.
Ms Ardern sees education as the key to New Zealand’s future and is a firm supporter of free education, covering up to three year’s tertiary education, whatever your age.
“Life-long learning is needed to create a resilient workforce when you consider that, in the very near future, 46 percent of current jobs will no longer exist.”
To a question about support for young entrepreneurs, she suggested that, if tertiary education was not the path of choice for a young person, they could be given the opportunity “to cash up” their tertiary education and be partnered with a mentor.
Answering another question on illegal drug use, Ms Ardern said she favoured a health-based approach in line with the approach many other countries are now beginning to take. Her personal observation of the drug problem has led her to believe that it’s one that needs to be dealt with now if we are going to preserve the next generation.
Business breakfast convenor, Judith Gray, said that feedback indicated that the event was well received and the guest speaker was both thought-provoking and entertaining.
“The breakfast event was a great way to bring some of the stakeholders in the Tawa business community together.”
Ms Gray indicated that further business breakfasts this year are under consideration.