20 Dec 2016

PM wouldn't describe himself as a feminist

9:15 pm on 20 December 2016

Prime Minister Bill English says he is not a feminist; in fact, he claims he does not know what that means.

He made the comment after his deputy and Minister for Women Paula Bennett told RNZ this morning she was a feminist "most days".

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines feminism as the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

The previous Minister for Women, Louise Upston, said she was not a feminist, however the new minister, Mrs Bennett, said she was one, most days.

"You know there's some days when I don't even think about it and I'm getting on being busy, but I still get a bit worked up about some of the unfairness that I've seen, mainly for other women and not for myself these days."

Mr English said he did not really mind whether people called themselves feminists or not.

"I've worked with women who have very assertive views about women's roles, appointed a lot of them to government agencies.

"The four largest organisations in New Zealand are all chaired or run by women, so I don't mind what label they use. What really counts is what they do."

Asked whether he was a feminist, Mr English said he would not describe himself as a feminist.

"I don't know quite what that means."

This afternoon, Mr English chaired the first meeting of the new Cabinet - with three new faces at the table. Newly-appointed Minister for Pacific Peoples Alfred Ngaro has been promoted straight from the backbench into Cabinet, and Louise Upston and Paul Goldsmith were ministers outside Cabinet before Sunday's reshuffle.

Earlier at Government House, four new ministers - Mr Ngaro, Jacqui Dean, David Bennett and Mark Mitchell - were sworn in, and other ministers were formally signed into their new portfolios.

The new ministers will have to frantically read all their briefings to get up to speed, but Mr English said they should also have a break.

"I hope they have two or three weeks off because they've had a pretty intensive end to the year ... So look, I hope they have a bit of a break, but there's always a bit of enthusiasm there, so I'd expect by the middle of January they'll be getting back to work."

The political year normally kicks back into action by mid to late January, with the annual pilgrimage to Ratana Pa the first formal event of the year.

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