Jacinda Ardern's Pay Rise Rebuff Is A Lesson For Aussie Pollies

The progressive politician has been changing the game in New Zealand and making it look easy.

As Australia once again finds itself with an unstable leadership and internal bickering in its Government, it's hard not to look across the pond at New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern with a bit of jealousy.

The progressive politician has been changing the game in New Zealand and making it look easy, not least by becoming a new mum just months after taking the top job.

Consider this backbencher speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald about Tuesday's libspill:

"A lot of our people are facing that fact that they are in the last six months of their political careers. They've got houses, school bills, cars that they've set up for themselves on the basis that they're earning $200,000 plus. What do they do if they're suddenly out of work?"

Now put that against the news literally 24 hours earlier that Ardern put a 12-month freeze on pay rises for politicians on the basis that they're already being paid enough.

That included a $NZ14,000 ($AU12,000) pay rise for herself.

"We do not believe, given that we are on the upper end of the salary scale, that we should be receiving that kind of salary increase," she said.

It's the sort of news that wouldn't have made much of a splash over here in Australia before Ardern. She's long been the rising star of the country's Labor party, battling sexist commentary -- the 'battle of the babes' -- and political coverage alike.

Such is the conflation of her political and celebrity status that soon after she took the top job, she was photographed and featured in Vogue. Not Vogue New Zealand (which doesn't exist). The US flagship one.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, photographed for Vogue's March 2018 issue by Derek Henderson.

The self-described "blatant feminist" and social democrat has gone out of her way to champion New Zealand.

When her daughter, Neve Te Aroha, was born earlier this year, Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford chose the name to honour the country's strong Maori heritage.

'Neve', which variously means bright, radiant or snow, was chosen because it seemed like "a good combination for Matariki [Maori new year] and for solstice", while 'Te Aroha', which is the Maori word for 'love', was "our way of reflecting the amount of love that this baby has been shown before she arrived."

But it's not fair to reduce Ardern to her celebrity status -- although, especially as she's returned to work after six weeks maternity and breastfeeds during briefings, she's certainly changing "the tone a little bit".

She came into Labor's top job midway through the election, when the party was polling at a disastrous 24 percent. After a neck-and-neck race, she wrangled an alliance together with two minor and often warring parties -- the Greens and New Zealand's version of the Nationalist party, Winston Peter's New Zealand First -- and finally formed a government almost a month after the country voted.

A pregnant Jacinda Ardern wears a Maori cloak to meet Queen Elizabeth II during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April. Photo: AAP.

Since then, she's managed to bring in paid domestic violence leave (Australia only has five days unpaid) and secure a commitment to ban plastic bags (something Australia seems unable to do without boomers losing their minds).

At every turn, the charismatic leader seems to be redefining what it means to be a politician -- and more importantly, what it means to a female politician.

Meanwhile Australia' first female PM showed that while women are more than ready to lead, certain factions in political parties, media and voters couldn't hack it and resorted to blatant sexism instead.

Like we said. It's hard not to be jealous.