FROM her envious Covid-19 response to her effective social democratic form of government, Jacinda Ardern has been recognised by progressives worldwide.
Her 2020 campaign – in which she won a landslide to be re-elected as New Zealand’s Prime Minister – appeared to provide a blueprint for leftist parties across the globe.
It enabled her to rid her Labor Party of NZ First, a nationalist party which she needed to form a coalition after the 2017 election.
In those three years, NZ First managed to secure a euthanasia referendum, as well as a comprehensive register of foreign-owned land and housing.
It’s no wonder many thought Ardern could finally flex her internationalist progressive values after earning an outright majority last October.
On Monday, however, tourism minister Stuart Nash blurted: “When our borders fully open again, we can’t afford to simply turn on the tap to the previous immigration settings.
“Covid-19 has starkly highlighted our reliance on migrant labour – particularly temporary migrant labour.
“The pressure we have seen on housing and infrastructure in recent years means we need to get ahead of population growth.”
The nation had seen its largest-ever annual drop in net migration for the year ending March 2021, according to Stats NZ.
Last Thursday Ardern herself hinted at the widespread changes, proclaiming: “Let me be clear.
“The government is looking to shift the balance away from low-skilled work, towards attracting high-skilled migrants and addressing genuine skills shortages.”
Fiscally progressive, but creeping towards social conservatism – it’s hard not to remember the calls from the likes of Blue Labour following the 2019 General Election in the UK.
One of the group’s key policies is to maintain levels of immigration that take into account the impact on communities. In many cases, this will mean a cap on immigration.
There’s little doubt that completely open borders aren’t feasible for any economy – indeed, the failure of the Remain campaign to address EU migration and wage suppression was key to their loss – but Ardern’s move suggests an initial shift among liberal and leftist parties towards conservative policies at the border, despite progressive measures within.
Ardern has, by and large, provided the framework for centre-left parties once they are in power. Decisive, effective governance has enabled New Zealand to grow – not only in the eyes of their population, but to earn respect from even the most ideologically opposed of countries.
But it appears the pandemic has moved New Zealand towards isolationism, rather than cooperation. One can only hope a liberal policy is maintained towards asylum seekers and those who need respite from the crippling conflicts abroad.
They may have single-handedly dealt with the pandemic in the most efficient way possible – but let’s hope Ardern hasn’t forgotten the compassionate values that endeared her to so many.
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