Dame Jenny Shipley: if I knew then what I know now …

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New Zealand’s first female prime minister was a reformer, but she learned the hard way how difficult that can be. She has some advice for public administrators in Australia.

What would New Zealand’s first female prime minister do differently in hindsight? Dame Jenny Shipley has some advice for public administrators: don’t waste the opportunity, but watch how you talk about reform.

In a speech to the Australian and New Zealand School of Government conference earlier this month, Dame Shipley mused on what drove her into politics (“to induce meaningful prosperity” and “create a sense of security, which today is not just about defence it’s about sustainability”), the ongoing challenges for women to succeed and the importance of diversity in government, and a legislative agenda focussed around improving the budget position (“moving from a closed to an open economy”), creating more flexible labour markets and transforming the country’s welfare system.

Dame Shipley spoke on a panel including former Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet head Terry Moran and current Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Andrew Tongue.

Dame Shipley said her advice to her younger self would have been simple: she would have moved “further, faster if we had the chance”:

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