Now that the Australian election is done and dusted and Scott Morrison and the Liberal/National coalition returned to power, it’s a good time to pay some attention to a story that emerged a few weeks ago, regarding our cousins across the ditch and their preferred prime minister.

In a recent blog post I talked about our national carrier being awarded the top spot in the Reputation Institute’s Australian Corporate Reputation Index. This month, our prime minister, Jacinda Ardern was voted preferred Australian leader in a pre-election poll.

There’s an old adage about not discussing politics or religion in polite company, but in this era of below the story comments on most news items, we have grown accustomed to the varied opinions of the people we share this country with. Popular discourse and debate is a venting mechanism for those whose voices were never really heard before and were only ever really seen in the Letters to the Editor sections of daily newspapaers.

While only 38 year’s old, our prime minister has accumulated a great deal of adulation throughout the globe since the terrible terrorist attacks in March in Christchurch and the way she responded to them. Now, our Australian neighbours say she is their preferred prime minister. As reported in the New Zealand Herald, “Australians were asked who they trusted when it came to relevance, integrity and commitment, with Ardern polling as Australia’s most preferred prime minister. Research company Millward Brown polled 1400 Australians asking them to score 12 politicians, including the leaders of the Coalition, Labor, the Greens, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the United Australia Party . . . But out in front was our very own Jacinda Ardern who scored a believability rating of 77 out of 100.” (Source: “Jacinda Ardern for Aussie PM? Kiwi leader ranked Australia’s most trusted politician”).

“Trust is a tricky commodity in a post-truth, alternative facts world. But I firmly believe that there is a real place for politicians who wear their hearts on their sleeves and commit to transparency, honesty and decency.”

In a way it’s not that surprising. Politicians have traditionally taken the top spots in indexes for untrustworthiness and today, more than ever, electorates all over the world have become jaded and disaffected by their elected representatives. Trust is a tricky commodity in a post-truth, alternative facts world. But I firmly believe that their is a real place for politicians who wear their hearts on their sleeves and commit to transparency, honesty and decency. It’s very easy to grow tired of the phoney duplicitous that categorises far too many leaders, MPs, senators, mayors, governors, congresspeople and elected officials. I think we want the best to represent us and govern in our stead. Personality politics sells newspapers and magazines and generates clicks online, but it doesn’t result in the best leadership or decision making.

“Our prime minister, in the midst of tragedy and outrage, illustrated the best of what politics can be – but to be honest so did  practically all of our politicians – no matter their particular orientation.”

Politics is an inherently critical element in our lives. It has become muddied and sullied by division and muck raking and has lost a lot of its focus as it has become entwined with entertainment. Politics is the discourse of power, or how to govern, how to make important decisions for the electorate. Left and right, liberal and conservative are labels to to create further distance between us, and it needn’t be that way.

Our prime minister, in the midst of tragedy and outrage, illustrated the best of what politics and leadership can be – but to be honest so did  practically all of our politicians – no matter their particular orientation. When we were in shock, confused, deeply saddened by what someone had done to so many fellow New Zealanders who were killed and injured, our leadership stepped up to the plate, establishing togetherness, kindness, and a dedication to ensure that something this monstrous would never occur again. I know that Kiwis, blue, red, green, or of whatever political hue, took great comfort in the steadfast, honest and caring position that Jacinda Ardern took. She offered little platitudes and instead led from the front, refusing to utter the name of the terrorist and promising gun reform in New Zealand. I have been proud of the leadership of this country on far too few occasions but I doff my cap to those who carried us through a grotesquely unique occurrence for this country.

“She will make mistakes and will fall as much as she succeeds, but the way she goes about it is the most important measure of her public perception and reputation.”

It would be a good thing if politics could transform into the exercise of the betterment of us all. Sure, we are different in many ways but importantly similar in many ways too. We want security, employment, an economy that benefits the many and a society that is inclusive and caring. After all, human beings are, in the main, kind and generous, and will help those who are struggling. The bad news for Aussies is that Jacinda Ardern is our prime minister. She will make mistakes and will fall as much as she succeeds but the way she is going about it is the most important measure of her public perception and reputation.

It only takes a cursory glimpse at contemporary global politics to realise how lucky we are, and have been, in New Zealand. We don’t have the same sort of rabid division, as is all too often the case in other countries. We are not immersed in seemingly unsolvable messes like Brexit in the UK, for example. I’m more than a little bit proud that the leadership of our little country at the bottom of the world, is becoming the envy of other nations.