[Documents menu]Political and general history of Aotearoa - New Zealand
Date: Sat, 13 Dec 97 11:13:31 CST
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: New Zealand Gets Its First Woman Prime Minister /** headlines: 131.0 **/
** Topic: New Zealand Gets Its First Woman Prime Minister **
** Written 3:59 PM Dec 12, 1997 by mmason in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 7:28 PM Dec 7, 1997 by Sclevine in list.beijing95 */
/* ---------- "[B95: ] New Zealand get first femal" ---------- */
From: "Suzanne C. Levine" <Sclevine@wvp.org>
Subject: [B95: ] New Zealand get first female prime minister
ClariNet story NZEALAND-POLITICS from AFP / Michael Field
New Zealand get first female prime minister
Copyright 1997 by Agence France-Presse ** via ClariNet ** / Sat, 6 Dec 1997 21:47:01 PST

New Zealand get first female prime minister

Agence France-Presse (AFP)
6 December 1997

WELLINGTON, Dec 7 (AFP) - When Jenny Shipley takes up her new job Monday she will have little time to savour becoming the country's first female prime minister and will instead have to focus on saving her severely ailing coalition government. General elections are due in late 1999, but if they were held today Labour Party leader Helen Clark would take over as prime minister, probably without the need for a coalition partner, according to opinion polls.

Shipley's National Party is in coalition with the smaller New Zealand First (NZF), led by political rebel Winston Peters who is deputy prime minister and treasurer.

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger was seen to have lost his job last month because he could not reign in Peters.

Shipley Friday named her new cabinet, dropping only one man, but reshuffling the pack to give right-wingers higher rankings. So far though she has been cautious about dealing with Peters who spent a week keeping the nation waiting over whether NZF would go along with the new leadership.

She has not won applause for her caution so far.

Top circulation New Zealand Herald said Shipley's cabinet was "decidedly white and male, which is not a good look" and added that in dealing with NZF "she may learn to regret her caution (Friday) as an opportunity lost".

The Sunday Star-Times said a worry lurking ahead for Shipley is the impact of the Asian economic collapse which will impact on New Zealand.

The coalition government has promised tax cuts next year and if they are to do it, Shipley will have to come up with some dramatic new measures to cut expenditure elsewhere. The Star-Times said Shipley has to come up with something, or risk being dumped soon after the 1999 election.

Shipley's own vision has been defined in a recent speech when she called on people to think how they could take more responsibility for themselves.

"I believe we have to be disciplined as a country," she said. "In the days ahead as we continue to debate the big social issues of health, welfare, education and law and order, I would ask that you talk about not only government, but also personal obligations, expectations and responsibilities."

Given that Shipley under Bolger acquired a reputation for ruthlessness in handling the social welfare portfolio, and then health, the speech suggested she is going to be as hard as ever.

She goes to Government House Monday to be sworn in and then Tuesday will make a major speech defining her leadership. Shipley, 45, is the only woman in cabinet.

She becomes the country's first female head of government although a woman has been Governor-General and the Leader of the Opposition is a woman.

She entered politics in 1987, and as Minister of Social Welfare in 1990 took the knife to welfare benefits.

She became health minister in 1993 and took it with the same reforming zeal which promoted a fierce public debate that continues still.

Opposition Labour welfare spokesman Michael Cullen said of her: "She has become the most hated minister in the history of this country."

She is, however, a self-confident and tough person. Shipley was born in Gore, a small town deep in the South Island, the second daughter of Presbyterian minister Len Robson, Shipley grew up in Marlborough. She married Burton, the son of a well-known Canterbury farming family, at age 21 and the two have a son, Ben, and a daughter, Anna.

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