COMMENT:

Jacinda Ardern returns to New Zealand with her credentials as an international leader — dare I say it as a "prime minister for the world" — burnished in the wake of the Christchurch Call success.

Ardern's stature has been enhanced. Particularly, by her own stewardship.

The Christchurch Call summit is action oriented. It has nailed results. World leaders and tech company heads have signed up to a voluntary agreement to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Advertisement

The expectation is this will help to restrict the distribution online of live streaming performances of terrorist attacks, such as the slaughter of 51 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch.

Ardern, as we are told by her, officials, and travelling news media, personally spearheaded the Christchurch Call initiative.

Her communication gifts were to the fore when she spoke with CNN's Christiane Amanpour this week. Her leadership skills were on display as she told Amanpour that the leaders were "asking for co-operation" from Facebook and other tech companies. "It is the least that can be offered in these circumstances."

The companies had a role to play and "we have expectations of you".

It was a call to action by leaders who "had a duty of care".

There was more besides and on top of this week's agreement, governments were "actually looking at the other tools they have" ... but "we can't do this alone".

Unfortunately, Ardern's stellar performance on the global stage has not been mirrored at home.

It is unfathomable that a woman who has sufficient pulling power to unite influential world leaders behind her initiative has singularly failed when it comes to forging commonality with the public first — then her own Cabinet — on issues like capital gains tax reform.

And yet, as she proved this week, she has the skills to have done so.

Imagine, if she had gone over the heads of Cabinet ministers and welcomed the working group's capital gains tax report. Said that intergenerational fairness and inequality were "absolutely at the top of my agenda".

"Absolutely, that is what I campaigned on at the 2017 election.

"The Cabinet has work to do on exactly what initiatives we will introduce and at what rate. Labour will absolutely introduce legislation to Parliament and fulfil our election commitment. My expectation is that our coalition partner New Zealand First and the Green Party will support the legislation."

It is instructive that Ardern did not seek Mark Zuckerberg's permission before launching her initiative. Rather, she used moral force.

A similar moral force has been to the fore in a series of recent speeches by Cabinet minister David Parker. Parker has pointed out the rapid transfer of wealth to the one per cent has grown exponentially as economist Thomas Picketty has shown.

Parker has highlighted growing inequality, multinational firms' tax avoidance, higher housing costs, uncertainty created by the impact of new technologies in the workplace and the effect on people's jobs, as fundamental issues.

Notably, the 15 per cent tax rate for capital gains that Parker pushed while Labour finance spokesman was supported by a majority of CEOs in the Herald's Mood of the Boardroom survey. Notably, there were also carveouts — thresholds at which a capital gains tax would kick in — in the Parker-led policy.

Why was that moral force not brought to bear within the Cabinet?

Substantial progress on this and other key issues are missing. This despite Ardern's promise that it would be a "Year of Delivery".

Yesterday I was struck by Paul Kelly's tribute to former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke in The Australian. "Hawke's incomparable skill was to project both as a strong leader and an ordinary bloke. He remained Bob to most friends. Blessed with an impressive personal office and a talented Cabinet — with Treasurer Keating the pivotal Cabinet minister — Hawke delegated to his ministers but retained oversight through the Cabinet process. He mastered his briefs, kept a clean desk, exuded a personal discipline, camped in the centre of Australian politics and put into action his 'consensus' philosophy."

Hawke and his Treasurer Paul Keating drove through a raft of reforms which transformed the Australian economy — and Australia.

Hawke was active on the global stage. He was not vainglorious.

These are dangerous times in global affairs with democratic freedoms under attack and the global economy at a pivotal point.

Ardern has showed us what she can do on the international stage.

Now those talents need to be shown at home.

And absolutely, she must deliver.

Want to see more from Fran O'Sullivan? Sign up here for the Business News newsletter to get the best premium stories sent to your inbox daily.