Jacinda Ardern has spoken of her deep personal sadness about the Christchurch terror attack, and says the fact the gunman was from Australia has helped New Zealanders process the aftermath.
In an interview with Project Australia host Waleed Aly, which aired last night in Australia, Ardern spoke about the aftermath of the Christchurch attack, about motherhood, and about blame — a topic Ardern was keen to clear up.
She said New Zealanders had found it difficult when confronted with the news that the shooter was Australian. But they did not blame Australians.
"That was news that did take some time for me to process," she said, "but I think New Zealanders are reflecting on the fact that it was not one of us, because in part that helps them process what has happened here. They do not point it out as an intent to blame, that is now why it's raised."
Ardern, who yesterday announced a royal commission into the massacre, said there was a reason she spoke the way she did after the attack.
"We have to acknowledge that that kind of targeting has happened before, this is not a world first, and so that is why our language is very deliberate. This is a terrorist attack," Ardern said.
When asked how she was coping, Ardern answered simply.
"The answer is I'm deeply sad. There are moments when there aren't cameras around … it's fair to say those are very emotional moments."
The Prime Minister has spent some time with family since the attacks but it hasn't been much. "Time with them wouldn't be quality," she said.
But she knows her job is more important now than ever.
"I feel like what the world is seeing is who we are," she told Aly. "We are made up of 200 ethnicities, 160 languages. We see ourselves as peaceful and inclusive. The act has been so counter to that but the response … the spontaneous songs, the real desire to give a sense of safety (for Muslims) to return to worship … that's New Zealand."
And she has a message to Australia.
"I just say thank you. Thank you for the solidarity and support. We are absolutely family."
In further comments on The Project last night, Aly says he won't forget his interview with Ardern and the admiration is clearly shared both ways.
Aly admitted last night that the moment that will stay with him forever happened on the way to the airport in New Zealand after filming.
"How was the memorial?" panellist Steve Price asked Aly.
"That really deeply affected me," he said. "That's almost life-changing. I'll remember that forever."
Aly was invited to New Zealand to interview Ardern after delivering a stirring editorial on The Project on the day of the Christchurch massacre.
The emotionally charged speech that almost brought Aly to tears has since been viewed more than 9.5 million times on Facebook.
It was one of the first things Ardern said to him when the pair embraced before their interview.
"I saw your piece on The Project and it was incredible," she said.
While Aly's editorial sparked the invitation from Ardern, it did not go down well with everybody.
Aly repeated claims made in 2011 by a Fairfax journalist that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged party members to exploit community concerns about Muslims.
Morrison's office made an official complaint, but the PM later agreed to confront Aly on the program.
In a tense interview that aired last week, Morrison denied ever making the claims and told Aly his track record of dealing closely with the Muslim community spoke for itself.
Morrison denied that the Coalition has a problem with racism.
"Our party is made up of a lot of individuals and in our party, individuals have a lot more freedom to say what they think than a lot of other parties," he said.
"And it is not for the party to answer for every single member on every single occasion."
The royal commission Ardern announced on Monday will examine the roles that guns and social media played in the lead up to the attacks.
"While New Zealanders and Muslim communities around the world are both grieving and showing compassion for one another, they are also quite rightly asking questions on how this terror attack was able to happen here," Ardern said.
"In short, the inquiry will look at what could have or should have been done to prevent the attack. It will inquire into the individual and his activities before the terrorist attack, including, of course, a look at (spy) agencies."