A couple of weeks ago we celebrated giving women the vote 124 years ago which was largely lost in the pre-election haze.

As was the decision by the Royal Saudi Arabian household to allow women in that country to drive from June next year - hallelujah, praise the benevolent House of Saud and pass the wheel brace.

Visiting Saudi Arabia with John Key a couple of years back was like stepping back into Biblical times, only then women had more rights. Dining in a shopping mall's fast food hall, the segregation of the sexes shocked us all. One of my colleagues had the audacity to take his food to an area of the dining room, only to be told to move to another area because he was a single man.

Lining up at McDonalds men were to the left, petitioned off from the women placing their orders behind a screen on the right.


It never occurred to us at the time that these women would have had to have been driven to the mall. They have always been denied the right to drive because it was frowned upon as being promiscuous. As it is when they are finally allowed behind the wheel it's not as straightforward as it sounds.

If they want to drop off the kids off at school, drive to the supermarket, or visit friends, under guardianship laws they'll have seek their husband's permission first. Indeed whether she'll be allowed to get a driving licence will again have to meet with the approval of her husband.

The decision to let them drive came from the 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and was evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The Prince will eventually rule the Kingdom and he knows pressure for change will come from his fellow millennials, half of whom are women with little to no social life, prohibited from almost all forms of entertainment and most forms of employment. Two years ago just 13 percent of the workforce were women even though more of them graduate from university than men.

This is the country that we bent over backwards for to get its signature on a free trade deal with the Gulf States and pumped more than eleven million bucks into an agribusiness hub, with four million of it going into the pocket of a wealthy businessman if he'd withdraw his thirty million dollar "threat" to sue our Government. The threat, according to official papers released in the election haze, never existed even though National repeatedly claimed it did.

And it wasn't money well spent. We were told several years ago the ink simply had to dry on the trade deal for it to be a goer. We're still waiting.