The Sydney Morning Herald is running a story saying that Helen Clark and Peter Jackson have been given New Year’s honours in New Zealand, and with respect to Helen Clark especially, this is a baaaddd thing, because her government abolished New Year’s honours a few years ago. [link]
During Helen Clark’s time as prime minister, her government abolished the titles “Sir” and “Dame” and introduced a set of honours specific to New Zealand. Honours themselves were never abolished – just the head-bowing regressive titles that purported to come from the English monarchy. Miss Clark and her colleagues thought that New Zealanders and New Zealand were sufficiently secure to be able to nominate and name those who were recognised as having mae extraordinary contributions to the community all by themselves. But then when the blue-rinse National party came to power in late 2008, in a fit of cultural cringe they re-introduced the titles.
Helen Clark has been admitted to the Order of New Zealand, which is limited to 20 living New Zealanders (there are 17 members at present). I’m delighted by this. Although she was not our first female prime minister, she was the first woman who was chosen by the electorate to fill this role, and during her time as leader she normalised the idea of women being leaders. I don’t think anyone would even bother to comment on having female political leaders in New Zealand any more. She was only the second post-war prime minister to stay in power for three terms.
Because the Sydney Morning Herald reporters didn’t bother to research their story carefully enough, they make Helen Clark seem like a hypocrite for accepting an honour. She is not. The honour has existed since 1987, and it does not carry a title. The SMH should apologise to Helen Clark for its petty story.