Of all the Generation X world leaders elected in the last few years – think Justin Trudeau in Canada – Emmanuel Macron in France and even the 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz in Austria – it is New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern who has the firmest sense of what kind of country she wants to lead on the world stage.
Just four months since taking office after a decade of conservative rule and while trying to carefully balance the views of three parties in government New Zealand is already showing signs of regaining its trademark standing as a small but confident – principled and creative presence internationally.
And Australia should take notice.
Australia used to be the gold standard for charting the right course.
Our foreign policy in the 1980s and early 1990s was characterised by Gareth Evans’ concept of being ‘a good international citizen’ which he used to say was about ‘no more – and no less – than the pursuit of enlightened self-interest’.
Our crafting of the Cambodia Peace Plan and the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons were two clear examples as was our opposition to apartheid.
But these were pursued within a wider understanding that our future prosperity and security was in Asia and we also needed to cement a role for ourselves in the region – not least through our founding of Apec.
If anything New Zealand wore their values even more strongly on their sleeves – famously sending a ship with a cabinet minister on board to protest at the edge of a French nuclear testing site in 1973 and then in 1985 refusing entry to the nuclear-powered USS Buchanan (which unfortunately caused the breakdown of their involvement in ANZUS).
But it is important to remember this was driven by the people.
These are clearly the days Ardern longs for.