New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern departs Friday prayers in Christchurch yesterday.

*New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern departs Friday prayers in Christchurch yesterday.

 

Without question, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has handled the aftermath of the Christchurch terrorist attack with exceptional empathy. This has led to a situation where, more than ever, she has been embraced by the left-of-centre media in Australia.

Last Sunday, The Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter FitzSimons described Ardern as “one out of the box, a leader for her times”.

This is symbolic of the Left’s recent embrace of the Land of the Long White Cloud. On January 9, for example, FitzSimons tweeted: “I ask again. Why are the Kiwis so much more sophisticated and progressive than us? What happened to the days when they were our poor backward cousins?”

It’s not all that certain that New Zealanders were ever poor backward cousins to Australians. Nor is it evident today that New Zealanders are so much more sophisticated and progressive.

It is worth remembering Ardern led her Labour Party to victory over Bill English’s National Party in September 2017 on a platform to reduce immigration. She scored fewer votes and seats than English but was able to form a government after doing a deal with populist New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. The record indicates, on a per capita basis, New Zealand’s humanitarian intake is significantly smaller than that of Australia.

Then there’s the tragic massacre in Christchurch at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques by an Australian white supremacist. The attack took place in a nation that has weaker gun laws than any nation other than the US and Canada.

In April 1996, following the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, Liberal Party prime minister John Howard introduced tough new gun control legislation. He did so with the support of the Nationals, the Labor opposition and the states and territories. New Zealand did not follow suit. The Christchurch gunman would not have legally acquired such weaponry in Australia.

Then there is intelligence and security. It is a matter of record that ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis has warned publicly of the danger of extreme right-wing groups in Australia. Peter Dutton has advised that he was briefed by ASIO on the white supremacist threat on his first day in the home affairs portfolio.

Sure, since the Islamist attacks in the US in 2001 and in Bali the following year, the main focus in Australia has been on Islamist extremists. But the extreme right-wing threat has not been overlooked, especially since Anders Breivik’s terrorist attacks in Norway in July 2011.

This is not the case in New Zealand. As Radio New Zealand reported on Wednesday, there is not one specific mention of the threat posed by white supremacists or right-wing nationalism in 10 years of public documents from New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service or Government Communications Security Bureau.

Andrew Little, the Ardern government minister responsible for the SIS and GCSB, has said these agencies started looking seriously at right-wing extremism in 2017 and have yet to complete a risk assessment. However, Ardern announced on Thursday that New Zealand would strengthen its gun laws.

If Ardern has emerged as the new secular saint then Scott Morrison is regarded, by some at least, as the new villain.

After the massacre, the Prime Minister was subjected to a five-minute rant by Waleed Aly on Ten’s The Project.

Aly said: “I know there are media reports going back eight years at a shadow cabinet meeting in which another senior politician suggested his party should use community concerns about Muslims in Australia failing to integrate as a political strategy.”

He added: “That person is now the most senior politician we have.”

Aly named Morrison — without checking with the Prime Minister’s office. The report in question was a leak from the shadow cabinet to journalist Lenore Taylor. In February 2011, she reported, in direct speech, that Morrison had urged the Coalition to capitalise on the “inability” of Muslims to integrate. It is mere hearsay — Taylor said that someone had told her about what Morrison had said in their presence. This overlooks the fact some people are verballed while some leakers have bad memories.

Morrison told ABC television’s News Breakfast on Wednesday that the Aly claim was “a disgraceful smear and an appalling lie”.

Even so, The Project’s Hamish Macdonald returned to the subject on Wednesday. Taylor’s report was “confirmed by multiple sources inside the room and denied by some others”, he said. Macdonald then claimed the report had been “verified” by senior journalists and Taylor stands by her story. Taylor’s report has not been “verified”.

In his interview with the Prime Minister on The Project on Thursday, Aly did not desist from his allegation despite being informed that Morrison’s comments in 2010 related to the need to integrate Muslims in Australian society, not to capitalise on them. This is a damaging allegation since it is consistent with the left-wing narrative that Morrison is somehow responsible for the Christchurch tragedy.

By the way, Aly missed The Project on Wednesday on account of an invitation to meet Ardern. Stand by for more praise of New Zealand as a more sophisticated and progressive land than Australia.