Talking with Tinetti

Absolutely loving her work – Tauranga list MP, Jan Tinetti. Photo: Nikki South.

Tauranga Labour list MP Jan Tinetti has revealed a deeply personal tragedy while talking in support of her leader and Prime Minister.

The MP had been asked by The Weekend Sun for a report card on her government’s first 100 days in power, and was asked about the timing of Jacinda Ardern’s pregnancy announcement to the nation.

Jan vehemently defended any woman’s right to choose when, where and how they tell people about a pregnancy. And she divulged her own misfortune to make her point.

“Being someone who has miscarried in the past, I think it’s good for mums to come up with their own time frames when they want to let people know about a pregnancy.”

The MP shared her secret to “totally support” Jacinda and partner Clarke Gayford’s decision to withhold the news until they felt comfortable. “Any mum can take that time,” says Jan.

But has the electorate been hijacked by a pregnancy and cooing noises? “Boy, this baby is reaching inane royal proportions” said one punter in a disgruntled note to a newspaper editor. “The photo I want to see is Jacinda Ardern behind a desk getting on with the work we are paying her to do.”

“The nation loves it,” says Jan. “When I heard about it, 15 minutes before the rest of New Zealand, I couldn’t stop jumping around because it is us leading the way again with a PM who is having a baby. We are leading the world in a lot of areas.”

It’s not just about babies, says Jan, it’s about leadership. “John Key was a huge part of the previous government and his leadership was important because people trusted him. It’s the same with this government. And even prior to the pregnancy, people had trust in Jacinda.”

That trust is soaring on the back of nearly 120 days in government. In the latest Colmar Brunton preferred Prime Minister polling, Jacinda is up four percentage points to 41 per cent. Outgoing Bill English dropped eight points to 20 per cent. The Labour Party’s enjoying its best polling in 15 years - up nine points to 48 per cent and well in front of National, down three to 43 per cent.

“Well, we achieved everything we set out to achieve in the first 100 days,” says Jan. “Families’ package, child poverty bill, the mental health inquiry, Pike River inquiry, industrial relations amendment bill, stopping the sell-off of state housing and the halt on foreign ownership. Plus things that weren’t on the 100 day plan, like the end of national standards.”

They are lots of things, says Jan, that the previous government could have done and should have done, but didn’t do. “Foreign ownership of homes – it was an easy one, we tackled it quickly and there weren’t the issues they said there would be. There was an absolute willingness from the electorate.

“I also struggled to see why the National government wasn’t doing anything about child poverty. The whole electorate was saying it wasn’t acceptable. Now the opposition is saying yes, we have to do something. They’re in support of doing something. Why now?”

Labour may be about to face its first real test as a government. And as the newbie backbencher and deputy chair of the education and workforce select committee, Jan is right in the firing line.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins was set to announce a complete overhaul of the education system - from early childhood through to post-secondary, the biggest education reform in New Zealand for almost three decades.

As the government’s education plans unfold, it will fall on Jan to help smooth the way, to maintain the relationship with the education sector, keep a closeness with the people and feed back to the minister. “Sometimes governments are perceived to be out of touch. We will keep it in touch. There will be a lot we can do,” says Jan.

“I may have been grieving for what I left behind at Merivale Primary, but I am absolutely loving what I am doing now.”