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Pacific News Minute: New Zealand’s Labour & Green Parties Make Changes Ahead of September Election

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Last year, John Key shook up politics in New Zealand when the long standing Prime Minister decided to resign. Now, with an election just six weeks away, the two largest opposition parties have both changed leaders as well…we have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

First to go, late last month, was Andrew Little, after polls put his Labour Party at a dismal 24 percent. Little stepped aside for his deputy, 37 year old Jacinda Ardern who made an immediate impact when male broadcasters asked her twice in the next two days whether she planned to have children. She replied that she was willing to discuss how she balanced work and family life. An issue she said many other women face, but she also said that no male candidate would ever face such a question and added, “It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace.”

Under New Zealand law, it’s illegal for an employer to ask a female employee if she plans to get pregnant. 

Then, this week, Metiria Turei, co-leader of the Green Party resigned. The Greens had surged in popularity after she admitted last month that, as an impoverished single mother back in the 1990s, she lied to qualify for welfare. But then more emerged about her past, including another lie.

She admitted that she fudged her address so that she could vote for a friend running for office. She said that the focus on her family was “unbearable”.  James Shaw, the other co-leader, will lead the Green party alone.

The shake ups had no affect at on the ruling National Party, which held steady at 44 percent in the polls. The fresh face of Jacinda Ardern lifted Labour almost ten points to 33 percent, while the Greens slumped from 15 to 8.

Election Day, is September 23rd.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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