Jan 19, 2023

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Announces That She is Resigning Transcript

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Announces That She is Resigning Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsJacinda ArdernNew Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Announces That She is Resigning Transcript

During an emotional media conference Jacinda Ardern has resigned as New Zealand prime minister. Read the transcript here.

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Jacinda Ardern (00:00):

Good afternoon. Today I have two important announcements to make. The first is the election date. Under the last government, the practice began of sharing the election date at the beginning of election year. Early announcements allow for planning and for preparation by the electoral commission, by government agencies and political parties, and is, I believe, best practice. That’s why in 2020, we announced at the beginning of election year and I do so again today. The general election for 2023 will be held on Saturday, the 14th of October. I can see in the room who has won the sweepstake. In setting this date, I’ve considered the advice of the Electoral Commission, public holidays and school holidays, the advanced voting periods, and important events and fixtures. I believe this date best accommodates each of these factors.

Consideration of the date over the summer and the impending election and new political term has also given me time for reflection. I’m entering now my sixth year in office and for each of these years I have given my absolute all. I believe that leading a country is the most privileged job anyone could ever have, but also one of the more challenging. You cannot and should not do it unless you have a full tank, plus a bit in reserve for those unexpected challenges. This summer, I had hoped to find a way to prepare not just for another year, but another term because that is what this year requires. I have not been able to do that. And so, today I’m announcing that I will not be seeking reelection and that my term is Prime Minister will conclude no later than the 7th of February.

This has been the most fulfilling five and a half years of my life, but has also had its challenges. Amongst an agenda focused on housing, child poverty, and climate change, we encountered a major biosecurity incursion, a domestic terror event, a major natural disaster, a global pandemic, and an economic crisis. The decisions that have had to be made have been continual and they have been waiting. But I’m not leaving because it was hard. Had that been the case, I probably would’ve departed two months into the job. I am leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility. The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple. But I absolutely believe and know there are others around me who do.

We’ve achieved a huge amount in the last five years and I’m so proud of that. We are in a fundamentally different place on climate change than where we were, with ambitious targets and a plan to achieve them. We have turned around child poverty statistics and made the most significant increases in welfare in the state housing stock that we’ve seen in many decades. We’ve made it easier to access education and training. We’ve improved the paying conditions of workers and shifted our settings towards a high wage, high skilled economy, and we’ve worked hard to make progress on issues around our national identity. And I believe that teaching history in schools and celebrating our own indigenous national holiday will all make a difference for years to come. And we’ve done that while responding to some of the biggest threats to the health and economic wellbeing of our nation, arguably, since World War II.

The team that has done all of that, they have been some of the best people I’ve ever had the privilege of working with, and they are well placed to take us forward as we continue to focus on our economic recovery with one of the strongest economies in the world. They’re also a team who are incredibly well-placed to contest the next election. In fact, I’m not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election, but because I believe we can and will, and we need a fresh set of shoulders for that challenge. I know there will be much discussion in the aftermath of this decision as to what the so-called real reason was. I can tell you that what I’m sharing today is it. The only interesting angle that you will find is that after going on six years of some big challenges, I am human. Politicians are human. We give all that we can for as long as we can, and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.

I intend to remain a member for Mount Albert through till April. This will give me a bit of time in the electorate before I depart and also spare them in the country a by election. Beyond that, I have no plan, no next steps. All I know is that whatever I do, I will try and find ways to keep working for New Zealand, and that I’m looking forward to spending time with my family once again. Arguably, they’re the ones that have sacrificed the most out of all of us. And so, to Neve, mum is looking forward to being there when you start school this year. And to Clarke, let’s finally get married.

As for the next labor leader, the caucus has seven days to ascertain whether one individual holds more than two-thirds of the caucus support. Caucus has agreed today that a vote will occur in three days time on Sunday the 22nd of January. If a leader is successfully elected, I will issue my resignation soon after to the Governor General and a new prime minister will be sworn in. If no one is able to garner this level of support within caucus, the leadership contest will go to the wider membership. My opportunity to thank the many people I need to will likely come in April when I depart Parliament 15 years after having been sworn in. Till then, I see my role to help the Labor Party, who I consider to be my family, navigate this next phase, and then to leave the next colleague who takes on this role all the space they need to make their mark.

For my part, I want to finish with a simple thank you to New Zealanders for giving me this opportunity to serve and to take on what has and will always be the greatest role of my life. I hope in return I leave behind a belief that you can be kind but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused, that you can be your own kind of leader, one that knows when it’s time to go. I’m happy to take your questions.

Speaker 1 (07:45):

Prime Minister, who are you backing in the leadership race?

Jacinda Ardern (07:48):

I will not be backing any one individual candidate. At this point, I see it as my role to help navigate the party through the next steps. I can tell you, having met with the caucus this

Jacinda Ardern (08:00):

… this morning. I’m confident that they will do that swiftly, decisively with good grace.

Speaker 2 (08:06):

How much did you reflect on your personal popularity ratings when making this decision?

Jacinda Ardern (08:10):

You’ll hear in my comments that my reflection was entirely on the next four years. In determining whether to run an election, you need that commitment to see you through a period, a three-year period. As much as I have taken great joy in this job, I would be giving a disservice to this country and to the Labor Party if I continued knowing that I just don’t have enough in the tank for another four years.

Speaker 2 (08:38):

What specifically was the moment that you realized that you couldn’t do it anymore?

Jacinda Ardern (08:42):

Look, you’ll also hear from my reflections that there hasn’t been one singular moment, not one point in time. I think the cumulative challenges that we’ve faced as a team and they have been extraordinary, has taken its toll.

I consider this job a privilege, but I am also human, and so my reflection has been an entirely personal one, and I will add that I had the support of my family to continue. In fact, some members of my family, particularly close to me, wanted me to continue, but they’ve supported my decision.

Yes, Jason?

Speaker 3 (09:19):

Prime Minister, so much of the Labor Party brand is built around Jacinda Ardern, are you worried now that you stepping down will effectively hand the election over to the National Party?

Jacinda Ardern (09:29):

Not at all. In fact, you’ll hear in my comments today I’ve taken this decision, because I believe this team has the strength to lead us successfully through the next election. There is a group of extraordinary people in the room next to me.

I have never led on my own. I have led with a strong, resilient, capable, intelligent team around me. They have experience and the expertise. They’ve already got New Zealand into the best possible position for the challenges that we face, and I believe their record and their experience will carry them through the next election.

Speaker 3 (10:07):

What would you put as your top moment of your tenure as prime minister?

Jacinda Ardern (10:11):

I think I’ve spent so much time thinking hard about this decision, because it is such a critical one that there hasn’t been too much time I think for self-reflection. I imagine that I’ll do that in the coming months ahead, but I consider every moment even the hardest of moments to be a privilege.

It’s one thing to lead your country in peace times. It’s another to lead them through crisis. There’s a greater weight of responsibility, a greater vulnerability amongst the people. In many ways, I think that will be what sticks with me. I had the privilege of being alongside New Zealand during crisis and they placed their faith in me.

Speaker 4 (10:55):

Prime Minister, the job of prime minister has become more dangerous in the last few years. Threats to your office have increased, how much did that weigh on you in making this decision?

Jacinda Ardern (11:05):

It didn’t. It is, as I say, cumulatively, we’ve seen these events and I’ve listed a few of them, and they had been taxing because the weight, the sheer weight and continual nature of them, there’s never really been a moment where it’s ever felt like we were just governing.

But I don’t want to leave the impression that the adversity you face in politics is the reason that people exit. It does have an impact. We are humans after all, but that was not the basis of my decision. In politics, you have adversity, you have disagreement. We need to nurture that. We also need to do our best to make sure it’s respectful, but that was not the basis of my decision.

Speaker 4 (11:53):

Would it be a surprise if anyone, Grant Robertson, as prime minister?

Jacinda Ardern (11:57):

I have received the blessing of Grant to share with you what he has shared with caucus today, and that is he will not be putting himself forward to be a potential candidate as a future leader. He has put out his own statement to be able to describe that in his own words, but that is the message that he has shared with caucus today.

Speaker 4 (12:21):

Is New Zealand being put out to [inaudible 00:12:23], Prime Minister?

Jacinda Ardern (12:24):

Oh, again, as I say, I will not speculate on the future considerations of the caucus. What I can share with you is they’re very clear sense of responsibility that they have the task ahead of them to choose a labor leader, and therefore, the next prime Minister in a decisive way, in a way that gives consideration to the needs of New Zealand, and that is where their focus will remain. They’re entirely externally focused. This is about the public, not about ourselves.

Speaker 5 (12:56):

Apologies, I hadn’t seen about, will Grant Robertson also be standing down?

Jacinda Ardern (13:01):

This is simply about the Labor leadership.

Speaker 5 (13:03):

And have you [inaudible 00:13:05] destabilized Labor with this, no?

Jacinda Ardern (13:08):

No. I think every leader and every political leader has to reflect on the transitions that need to be made. It’s about knowing when you’ve got what it takes and what is needed to lead, but also having the courage to know when you don’t.

For me, it’s about making sure that this transition is as smooth as possible. There’s no doubt, this is a big change, but I also absolutely believe that we have the capability in our team to continue to carry New Zealand forward.

Speaker 5 (13:41):

And when did you realize that, to use your metaphor, that you were starting to run on fumes, that the tank was emptying and…

Jacinda Ardern (13:51):

Look, it’s fair to say that as we loomed closer to Christmas and the summer period, I decided to give myself a chance to really reflect on whether I had what was needed. As I say, I had hoped that I would find what I needed to carry on over that period, but unfortunately, I haven’t, and I would be doing a disservice to New Zealand to continue.

Speaker 3 (14:18):

What was the reaction-

Speaker 6 (14:18):

Do you have any regrets or unfinished business?

Jacinda Ardern (14:22):

Oh, look, I think anyone who leaves this place thinking that the job’s done didn’t have enough of a to-do list. Of course, there will be things that I wish I could have continued working on, but I also have no regrets because I’ve lived to the best of my ability in this job by putting all those values that got me into politics first and foremost and front and center.

Were there have been things I’d have done differently? Absolutely. But I also leave knowing I did my best.

Speaker 3 (14:54):

What was the reaction of caucus today when you told them?

Jacinda Ardern (14:57):

It’s fair to say they were surprised, but they also understood. One thing with a group of people who you work so closely with is they get to know you at a personal level, and so I think they could see that I’d given everything and they didn’t begrudge this decision.

Speaker 3 (15:16):

Did they all find out at once or did you have an inner circle that you informed [inaudible 00:15:20]?

Jacinda Ardern (15:19):

I met with cabinet this morning. I met with caucus, obviously, as scheduled. There were only the odd individual who I’d spoken to, but in their capacity as friends.

Speaker 3 (15:33):

Who were they?

Jacinda Ardern (15:34):

I’d rather not get into some of those details, but it was a very, very small number and some without much notice.

Speaker 5 (15:42):

How would you like New Zealanders to remember as prime minister?

Jacinda Ardern (15:46):

Someone who always tried to be kind.

Speaker 4 (15:47):

What time did you tell your colleagues this morning?

Jacinda Ardern (15:51):

So after the opening of caucus, so essentially straight off the bat. Cabinet met at 7:30 AM this morning, caucus soon after.

Jacinda Ardern (16:00):

… some senior members I met with last night, and as I say, a very small handful who had any other prior notice. Ultimately, I didn’t want to burden them with this decision. It was my own. I knew once I’d made it that my mind was not for changing.

Speaker 10 (16:16):

It would be fair to say-

Speaker 8 (16:19):

When you wake up on the [inaudible 00:16:23], what’s the first thing you’re going to do?

Jacinda Ardern (16:25):

Probably have the cup of tea that Clark will inevitably make me in bed, and I don’t say that in jest. That’s actually been his practice for the last five years, if I’m not up before him, and probably make me breakfast.

Speaker 9 (16:47):

Prime Minister, how did you tell Neve?

Jacinda Ardern (16:47):

I haven’t yet.

Speaker 10 (16:47):

It would be fair to say prime minister, would it not-

Jacinda Ardern (16:49):

Four-year-olds are chatty. Couldn’t run the risk.

Speaker 10 (16:53):

It would be fair to say, Prime Minister, would it not, the highlight, you agree, would it have been working with Maori and getting to know them on an intimate level in a way [inaudible 00:17:02] invaluable?

Jacinda Ardern (17:01):

There’s a reason I listed that in my remarks because I have considered that one of my great privileges. I actually remember that it was the day I was welcomed onto a MAORI in Rotorua in one of my first [foreign language 00:17:21] as Prime Minister, that in that moment the weight and responsibility of the job really came at me, and it has done every single [foreign language 00:17:31] I’ve done since. I believe that we have strengthened our relationships with Maoridom and that we have made progress. Now, the key is to keep going.

Speaker 9 (17:41):

Prime Minister, to a lot of New Zealanders, this will come as no surprise.

Jacinda Ardern (17:41):


Speaker 9 (17:41):

What’s your message to them who may not have saw it coming?

Jacinda Ardern (17:53):

To know that I’m not unusual. Firstly, I’m a politician who is first and foremost human. And so, leadership means being willing to step back and recognize when actually it’s time for someone else to do the job, and that I’m not alone in the fact that politicians and the ones that I work with at least are constantly thinking about how they can best serve. They’re constantly thinking about what they can do on behalf of their communities. They’re not all there for power. They’re not all there to be in the front seat. They’re there to be in a team that makes a difference. And so, that’s probably why my colleagues aren’t surprised because they can see that I’m trying to make the best decision for New Zealand. If I don’t have what it takes, I need to let someone else take on this job.

Speaker 9 (18:44):

And leadership has a huge impact on a party.

Jacinda Ardern (18:47):


Speaker 9 (18:48):

[inaudible 00:18:49] the direction it goes. Where do you see [inaudible 00:18:51] it going next year, or this year [inaudible 00:18:57] of cost-of-living crisis, the economy?

Jacinda Ardern (18:57):

You could name every single issue of concern to New Zealanders. Labor is the one that has policies and plans, which they are already implementing to support New Zealanders through. We have one of the strongest economies in the world right now, despite great, great international headwinds. We have the record. I believe strongly that this team has what it takes to take an agenda to the New Zealand public that they will support. I just need to make sure that they have the right leader to take them through that.

Speaker 3 (19:30):

You said you haven’t really focused on what happens next, but in your whole career there’s been a lot of speculation that you might be off to the United Nations for a role there. Is that something on your radar or is that something that you would consider if it was to offered to you?

Jacinda Ardern (19:42):

This has been my entire focus, as you can see by the fact that you’ve not been aware of this. I’ve kept this essentially to myself in a very small group, and so that has not been my focus. My focus has been this decision, supporting the labor team through this next stage. Beyond that, I have no plans, other than spending a bit of time with my family and then seeing what’s next, but that hasn’t been my focus.

Speaker 3 (20:11):

You might not have plans or might not be your focus, but you have ambitions to get to that level.

Jacinda Ardern (20:16):

That has never been my focus and that hasn’t been my ambition. I haven’t been here for that purpose. I’ve been here to serve New Zealand. I’ll then take each day as it comes.

Speaker 7 (20:25):

Has Kelvin Davis indicated whether he is interested in the-

Jacinda Ardern (20:30):

As I said, I had the blessing of Grant Robertson to share his news. I haven’t sought that from any other member, so I’ll allow any other caucus member to speak for themselves. But what I would just reflect on is that when the National Party went through a not dissimilar transition between John Key and Bill English, they took, I believe, seven days to make their decision. Labor has taken the decision to vote in essentially three. They do want to make sure they move quickly. They’re very united in their focus. They know that they need to be focused on supporting New Zealanders in this time, and so that is why they’re looking to move as quickly as they can.

Speaker 11 (21:11):

Did anyone flag that they were interested in-

Jacinda Ardern (21:16):

Again, the focus here very much for the team has been making sure that the process is decisive. That’s what everyone has been reflecting on, and that’s why I have information to share with you on that today.

Speaker 11 (21:29):

Will you-

Jacinda Ardern (21:31):

Otherwise, I’ll leave individuals to speak to their own positioning.

Speaker 7 (21:37):

You still be involved in the campaigning, in the election campaigning?

Jacinda Ardern (21:42):

As you’ll have heard me say, I actually believe it’s really important to allow a new leader to make their mark. I will be there for whatever needs, advice, support, that can be provided or asked. [inaudible 00:21:55] Oh, sure. I started out as a leaflet deliverer; I’ll always be a leaflet deliverer.

Speaker 9 (22:01):

Leadership contests can be quite divisive [inaudible 00:22:05].

Jacinda Ardern (22:04):


Speaker 9 (22:05):

Do you anticipate that that could happen again?

Jacinda Ardern (22:07):

No. No. Look: ultimately there will be of course debate, discussion. That’s what you’d expect in a healthy democracy; that’s what you’d expect in a healthy team. But this is also a team that, as I say, they’re focused on New Zealand. They know their job is to move as quickly as they can, as decisively as they can, and as gracefully as they can.

Speaker 9 (22:27):

Do you accept that you now have now made your team’s job so much harder with this decision?

Jacinda Ardern (22:32):

No. I don’t. The job for them would’ve been hard if they had a leader who didn’t have enough in the tank to take them through.

Speaker 3 (22:40):

Did you seek the counsel of somebody like Helen Clark that has been through this?

Jacinda Ardern (22:45):


Speaker 3 (22:45):

Or did I say John Key who has been through a similar situation?

Jacinda Ardern (22:48):

No. As I say, ultimately I felt it was a decision I had to take responsibility for. That’s not to say I didn’t take the counsel of a small group, but as I say, small, small group, and ultimately my decision.

Speaker 9 (23:03):

What’s been the toughest part of the job?

Jacinda Ardern (23:08):

Probably naming one as a single tough moment when there are so many options. Managing to make progress on all the things that you are there to achieve, while still taking on the challenges of the day. Now, housing is a crisis; child poverty, climate change doesn’t go away just because you have a pandemic, so just continuing to keep up that momentum. But we have, so I’m so proud of that.

Speaker 9 (23:38):

Are you comfortable with the state that you’re leaving New Zealand in?

Jacinda Ardern (23:43):

Yes. It is not an easy time. There are struggles out there for many, absolutely. There is much work to be done, absolutely. But have I given all I can to put us in the best possible position? I have, and I know that, hand on heart. Claire?

Jacinda Ardern (24:00):


Clare (24:00):

[inaudible 00:24:01] time and place in which you made your final decision?

Jacinda Ardern (24:05):

No, there hasn’t been a singular moment. As I say, nearing the end of the year, I thought I really need to give myself the summer to really consider whether or not I have what it takes to continue. Once I realized that I didn’t, I knew unfortunately there wasn’t much alternative other than to handover now. I did give some thought as to whether or not there was a way to complete the term, but our system just simply doesn’t work like that, and that is what it is. Perhaps I’ll take a final two questions. Amelia and then-

Amelia (24:36):

[inaudible 00:24:39]?

Jacinda Ardern (24:38):

Oh, I haven’t… To be honest, haven’t finalized some of those plans. As you’ll see, I’ve said that I anticipate that I will resign and the new Prime Minister will be sworn in by the 7th of February. Depending on the process, that could be earlier, so that’s something that I’ll work through with the new leader. Mark?

Amelia (25:00):

[inaudible 00:25:02]?

Jacinda Ardern (25:02):

Look, again, similar answer. I’ll work that through. Mark?

Speaker 2 (25:06):

When you became Prime Minister 2017, you probably didn’t expect to deal with a lot of things you ended up dealing with.

Jacinda Ardern (25:12):

I didn’t expect to be Prime Minister either.

Speaker 2 (25:12):

In the hindsight, what are the traits that it takes to make a good Prime Minister?

Jacinda Ardern (25:20):

This is my view, and it is perhaps not a commonly held one, but the top of my list would be empathy. Unless you can at least work to comprehend the experience of others, very hard to deliver solutions and respond to crises without that starting point. So that’s been a really important principle for me, empathy, and I think we have to be willing to reject some of those old characteristics as well. If you ask someone of my generation what they believe a politician to be and to name some of the traits, I doubt that they would list kindness, I doubt that they would list empathy, but I hope the next generation does.

Speaker 12 (26:17):

I just want to ask about, was there a best day that you had in the job or one moment that you can [inaudible 00:26:18]-

Jacinda Ardern (26:18):

There’s been so many of those, and I don’t want to lose sight of that. Moments where I’ve just felt so proud. The progress that we’ve made on climate, standing in the Parliament and speaking on zero carbon legislation, making the change to our public holidays to bring in Matariki. Standing at [inaudible 00:26:44] on [inaudible 00:26:45], and seeing that we are making progress and taking on some really big challenges head on. Seeing that we’re making progress on child poverty. Those have all been incredibly important moments for me. I couldn’t list one, and so I wouldn’t want this last five and a half years to simply be about the challenges. For me, it’s also been about the progress. I think we’ll call it a day.

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