In a couple of firsts, New Zealand appointed an indigenous woman politician as the country’s foreign minister and an openly gay man as deputy PM on Monday, setting new standards for inclusivity and diversity the world over.
After being sworn in on a landslide victory for the second time, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveiled what she called an “incredibly diverse" cabinet Monday.
The new cabinet included Nanaia Mahuta, a leader from the Maori community, an indigenous group of people in New Zrealand, who in 2016 became the first member of the NZ Parliament with a ‘moko kauae’ - the traditional face tattooes worn by Maori people. Apart from Maori and women, the cabinet has also earned a new feather in its cap in terms of inclusivity with Grant Robertson, whom Ardern appointed as deputy prime minister, making him the first openly gay person to hold the role.
The centre-left leader revamped her ministerial line-up in the wake of a landslide election victory, saying her second-term priorities were responding to Covid-19 and promoting economic recovery.
While expressing pride at her cabinet’s diversity, Ardern also said appointments were made on merit.
“It is both a cabinet with huge merit and talent, which also happens to be incredibly diverse," the 40-year-old said.
“I think it’s an important point to make — these are individuals who have been promoted for what they bring to the cabinet, they also reflect the New Zealand that elected them.
“I think as a country we should be proud of this."
Robertson, 49, who was chief strategist during Ardern’s election campaign, retains the finance portfolio he held in the first term and also becomes infrastructure minister.
Asked about the significance of having a gay man in the role, Ardern said her reasons for selecting him were his leadership qualities, not how he identified.
“One of the amazing things about New Zealand is that we are often in a space where these questions become secondary," she said.
“The representation is there and that is not the first consideration, that is often not how our members first and foremost identify themselves."
Ardern won the October 17 election campaigning on New Zealand’s success containing coronavirus and her cabinet includes a new role of minister for Covid-19 response, filled by former health minister Chris Hipkins.
She said the change would allow Hipkins to focus on issues such as border control and managed isolation, without distraction from the wider health portfolio.
While Ardern won the election with an absolute majority, meaning her Labour Party can govern alone, she also appointed two Greens lawmakers to ministries outside the cabinet.
One Greens co-leader, James Shaw, will become climate change minister and the other, Marama Davidson, will have a portfolio focusing on preventing family and sexual violence.
The news comes after reports pf immense online abuse faced by women candidates during the election campaign. As per a recent report, as many as two lakh abusive tweets directed at women politicians and candidates were detected on Twitter in the run-up to the elections.
(With inputs from AFP)