Helen Clark has revealed intimate details about her early family life in New Zealand, her time as Prime Minister and her current role at the United Nations, in an exclusive interview on The Bottom Line, set to air on Saturday 12 April at 4.00pm on Channel Nine.
After entering Parliament in 1981, Helen Clark became New Zealand’s 37th Prime Minister, serving three consecutive terms from 1999 to 2008.
“It was busy, busy, busy… You had to move quickly in the New Zealand political cycle with only the three-year terms. If you don’t move fast in the first year then you’re not going to have a lot to show for it at the end of the third.”
Speaking exclusively to The Bottom Line host and CPA Australia chief executive, Alex Malley, Clark reflects on her successes and the popularity she garnered at home and abroad.
“I’d been an understudy for this for a number of years, I’d been leader of the opposition for six years and we did have a very clear program.”
In the 2008 election, Clark’s government was defeated and she resigned as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party.On her decision to step away from Parliament, she tells Malley that it was time to change tack.
“By the time you’ve had nine years in office people are getting a little tired of you, it doesn’t matter how good a job you’ve done, they’re getting a bit tired, they’re looking for something new… I had a great political career, I enjoyed the nine years at the top but I was able to shut the door and walk away.”
Clark shut the door, and immediately made herself relevant again in a new role. In 2009, Clark was hired as Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the third-highest position in the powerful world body.
As the first woman to lead the organisation, Clark reveals that it wasn’t a woman, but a leader in general that was needed to fill the role.
“Our organisation has so many people who are development experts…That’s been their career and their life and it’s a very important one but that has to be led, it has to be advocated for, it has to be communicated about and those are different sorts of skills often. So my pitch was this job needs a leader, and I am that leader.”
On the warm welcome she has received as Administrator, Clark credits the experiences gained at home in New Zealand as the best preparation for her.
“Having been Prime Minister of my country and having moved around a lot in those years…I think I come with an established reputation as a serious player, someone who has occupied an office similar to the leader of a country so you’re well accepted on that basis…”
On rumours that she is in line to become the first female Secretary General of the United Nations, Clark tells The Bottom Linethat there is a lot that needs to be done before that would be the case.
“I think member states have to think about what it is that they want in the position. Traditionally the position has gone to a very seasoned diplomat. I’ve come out of a different tradition of leadership style…Secondly, member states will need to ask the question “is it time for a woman” and if so, that could lead to a range of answers.”
Helen Clark shares her insights with Alex Malley on The Bottom Line – airing on Saturday 12 April at 4pm on Channel Nine.
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Helen Clark on The Bottom Line is Episode 9 in a 24 episode series.
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