Ardern's response to the attack was rightly praised. But with some distance from the immediate events, we now have to look at what came before to make sense of what else needs to come afterby Maya Goodfellow / April 16, 2019 / Leave a comment
In the days following the murder of fifty Muslims in two mosques in New Zealand, a degree of consensus appeared to emerge about the country’s Prime Minister: Jacinda Ardern has shown how a leader should respond to such a reprehensible act of violence.
Columns were written praising her and a petition asking for her to be given the Nobel Peace Prize rapidly gained signatures.
But the praise, understandable though it is, relied on silence about New Zealand’s recent past on anti-immigration politics and racism.
I’m not here to argue Ardern’s response to the Christchurch attacks wasn’t exemplary. She swiftly introduced new gun laws that include banning assault rifles and semi-automatics, committed to paying for full funeral costs of the victims and providing other financial support where needed—regardless of immigration status.
She sensitively responded to the attacks by attempting to reassure Muslims of their safety and belonging in New Zealand—though in the process relying on exceptionalist narratives of the country, a settler colonial society, as peaceful and ‘tolerant.’
But with some distance from the immediate events, we now have to look at what has come before the attack to make sense of what else needs to come after.
Out of power for nine years, New Zealand’s Labour party came second in the 2017 election results but after weeks of negotiation, they formed a coalition government with the country’s nationalist party, New Zealand First—making its leader, Winston Peters, Ardern’s second in command—while also striking a confidence and supply deal with the Greens.
New Zealand First and their leader, Peters, are no new players in New Zealand’s politics. Deputy Prime Minister from 1996 to 1998 and in politics for the vast majority of his working life, Peters is not some peripheral character.
Ardern didn’t make his career by going into Coalition with his party—but the coalition has given New Zealand First renewed power and legitimacy.
A quick look at their history on immigration and race shows why that’s a problem. Relying on xenophobia from election to election, alongside aiming to end the country’s “neoliberal experience” New Zealand First is staunchly anti-immigration.
Peters has spoken about an “Asian Invasion,” derided political correctness as keeping communities apart and in the wake of the 2005 London bombings claimed…