Lawyer Tudor Clee, who acts for pregnant New Zealand women stranded overseas during Ardern’s lockdowns spoke to Rita Panahi of Sky News Australia.
Clee believes a story due to break next week exposing Ardern’s cruel policies towards pregnant women stuck overseas during lockdowns likely explains her resignation.
This comes as an investigative story published this week on Cranmer’s Sutstack showed Ardern and the country’s top health bureaucrat Ashley Bloomfield, did not follow the advice of vaccination experts in the mRNA roll-out for children and young persons, with potentially disasterous consequences.
Transcript of interview
Panahi: Now back to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who went from being the darling of the left, the Queen of Empathy, to facing a big loss at the polls. And instead of battling it out and allowing the people to pass judgement on her performance, she’s quitting before she’s dumped. One man who knows very well the of the hardships Ardern’s policies have caused is my next guest, lawyer Tudor Clee. Tudor, thanks so much for joining me. Ardern is often presented as a progressive and kind champion of women. But you’ve said that her government’s policies, but you’ve said her policies contributed to the grossest abuse of women’s reproductive rights in a generation. Explain to my audience what happened to some of the women you represent.
Clee: Essentially when the border was shut during the COVID lockdown, the government put in place an exemption programme, for instance so that people with a medical condition overseas could find a way back to New Zealand for help. When they set it up it exclusively excluded pregnancy and childbirth. So as a result of that we had many women and families who were split and they couldn’t even come back to their own country to give birth safely. That obviously had an enormous impact on many women who were sitting at home in New Zealand during the lockdown where it was even illegal to have their family come and help them with the baby. The husband or father was stuck overseas and vice-versa, women who wanted to come back and give birth with support, and were in countries that had inadequate medical facilities, and in some cases it was even illegal for them to be pregnant and unmarried in the countries they were in. And all of their applications were rejected.
Panahi: I know one woman you represented was in Afghanistan, somewhere where she was certainly not going to get the medical care should would receive in New Zealand and it’s not just the birth that’s impacted here. This affects the citizenship of their children and their children’s children.’
Clee: Yes, last month I was in an interview and I raised the issue that under New Zealand law every single one of the babies that is born overseas does not have the ability to pass on New Zealand citizenship to their own children in the future automatically. And in fact some of the children born overseas even if they have a New Zealand citizen parent, may not even be New Zealand citizens at all now.
Panahi: That is just…and locking down the entire country over a single case. How do New Zealanders see her now? Is the slump in her poll numbers due to COVID policies, or the state of the economy, and the broken promises? How is she perceived? What’s been behind her plunge in popularity?
Clee: Well, the interesting thing was she’d already lost numerous human rights cases at the High Court. Her border policy was ruled unlawful for stopping New Zealanders coming back against their Bill of Rights. She’s lost multiple pregnancy cases at the Hight Court. But I think the final straw was the independent investigator, the Ombudsman, a ruling just in December, that essentially, the conduct of her and the conduct of her staff and her policies, effectively banning pregnant women coming back, and many other people in difficult situations, was essentially dishonourable, and that she should apologise. And that put her in a position where in parliament just before Christmas, she made it clear she would not apologise for her border policies, in spite of the people her own watchdog had clearly said she’d harmed.
Panahi: Incredible. Lastly, what do you see as her legacy?
Clee: I think the legacy will be one of cruelty. The notion of the kindness is completely ridiculous to anyone who has an understanding of what she did. When we’re talking about the pregnant women who were forced to be overseas, are now finding out their children’s citizenship is irreparably damaged because of this policy, we have to remember that the border was open if you were wealthy, if you’re an entertainer or sportsperson. So when I was fighting pregnancy cases pro bono for 35 families to come back, Jacinda Ardern’s policy allowed 64 foreign DJs to fly into New Zealand and make millions of dollars out of us, while simultaneously forcing these women into incredibly stressful and difficult situations. It was a callous disregard for their rights and the rights of their children. And what I’m interested in, is that the story of the citizenship, which is an enormous scandal in itself, was due to break next week. And the government have only been asked to comment on it. And, I have a feeling Jacinda Ardern saw this as something she couldn’t come back from. Because these children’s citizenship is irreparably damaged, and I just don’t see how she could’ve gone through next week as the Prime Minister having to answer questions about that, and try to continue to not apologise for what her policy did.