Jacinda Ardern and Mark Richardson clash over questions about her baby plans

Last updated 10:17 02/08/2017

We ask male MPs what they think about Mark Richardson's questions to Jacinda Ardern on The AM Show this morning,

Jacinda Ardern: "It is a woman's decision about when they choose to have children". Mark Richardson: "I think this is a legitimate question for New Zealand, because she could be the Prime Minister running this country".

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern discusses campaign challenges

Jacinda Ardern is 37 and has a partner and she has openly talked about wanting kids.

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Labour's new leader Jacinda Ardern has told AM Show panellist Mark Richardson his comments that employers should know women's baby plans before hiring are "totally unacceptable" in 2017.

Ardern appeared on the AM Show on Wednesday morning and told Richardson, one of the show's hosts, he'd gone too far.

Richardson had said: "I think this is a legitimate question for New Zealand, because she could be the Prime Minister running this country - she has our best interests at heart, so we need to know these things.

"If you are the employer of a company you need to know that type of thing from the woman you are employing ... the question is, is it OK for a PM to take maternity leave while in office?"

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Ardern said it was acceptable to ask her those questions because she'd made it clear she would answer them.

But she told Richardson, pointing at him: "for other women, it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. That is unacceptable in 2017. It is the woman's decision about when they choose to have children" she said.

"It should not predetermine whether or not they get the job."

When he defended himself, she asked: "Would you ask a man if they are likely to have kids in the future?"

He said yes.

Co-host Amanda Gillies didn't share Richardsons's view, saying it "didn't sit well" with her that one of the first questions Ardern, 37, had been asked as Labour leader was about her plans for parenthood.

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They came on Tuesday just hours after she replaced Andrew Little.

When she appeared on The Project on Tuesday evening, host Jesse Mulligan asked her if she felt she had to make a decision between continuing to progress her career or having babies.

This question was seen by some as anti-feminist.

TVNZ Breakfast presenter Hilary Barry said on Twitter: "Please can every nob who asks that ask the same of Bill English?"

Others echoed Barry's sentiment, saying male politicians weren't asked the same question.

Some even called the question sexist.

Newshub weather presenter ingrid Hipkiss said she was "not on board with the question".

However, Ardern took Mulligan's question in her stride, saying she didn't have a problem with being asked about weighing advancing her political career against having children.

"I've been really open about that dilemma because I think probably lots of women face it," she said.

"For me, my position is no different to the woman who works three jobs, or who might be in a position where they are juggling lots of responsibilities.

"You've just got to take every day as it comes and try and see if you can make the best of the lot you're given.

"So I'm not pre-determining any of that, just like most of the women out here who just make their lives work."

Ardern has spoken openly in the past about wanting children and a family.

Earlier this year, in an interview with NZME, she said she wanted children and that could make becoming party leader or Prime Minister difficult.

"I don't think they're mutually exclusive, but I think they're difficult.

"If we want Parliament to reflect New Zealand as a society, then we should be able to accommodate both, but at the same time, it's always going to be hard, because you're split-living," Ardern said at the time.

"But maybe there's some benefit out there in being a bit more open about the struggles we all have in balancing these things in our lives? Maybe I just need to be open and have some faith that it'll be OK."

In a separate article for NZME, written by sociologist Jarrod Gilbert in 2016, Ardern said she wouldn't be the next leader of the party after Little.

She said she didn't want to work the ridiculous hours and media scrutiny.

"And having recently moved in with her partner, Auckland media personality Clarke Gayford, she wants to have kids," according to the 2016 article.

At the time she said she could have a family and a life as an MP but not as the leader of a party. And definitely not as Prime Minister.

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- Stuff


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