Week at the Union – Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand

first_imgby Heather Ryan  Malcolm X, Ronald Reagan, Yasser Arafat, Helen Clark… try spotting the odd one out. The Prime Minister of New Zealand is perhaps one of the lesser-known politicians to have graced the Oxford Union with their presence, but her achievements suggest such obscurity is undeserved. The first female Prime Minister of New Zealand to win office at a General Election, Clark has overseen radical changes to her nation’s welfare system. In her speech – surprisingly well-attended given that it was on Monday of 0th week – these were outlined: 8 increases to the minimum wage in as many years, an increase in employment levels, and a reduction of unemployment to 3.6%. Her government is as notable for its positions on international affairs and green issues as it is for its commitment to social justice, and much of Ms. Clark’s talk focused on the themes of her foreign policy.While the somewhat uninspiring delivery detracted from my enjoyment of the speech, the content itself was interesting, centring on the themes of New Zealand’s foreign and environmental policies. The country’s commitment to nuclear disarmament was discussed, as was the active role in international peacekeeping played by the New Zealand army.Clark described New Zealand as “clean and green”, and also advocated her government’s support for human rights, interfaith dialogue and international aid. She concluded by contrasting the UK and New Zealand, suggesting that while we share many values and beliefs, due to geographical separation the focus of our diplomatic and trade relationships is different. Several insightful questions followed, including a criticism of her government’s rejection of nuclear energy, which Clark rebutted confidently and fluently. I was left in no doubt that the Prime Minister is principled, articulate, and a liberal through and through; it’s just a shame that her public speaking skills undersell her.last_img read more