Jacinda Ardern has faced an awkward moment on Australian television, after ABC’s 7.30 host Sarah Ferguson asked what it’s like to be more popular abroad than at home.

Though the New Zealand Prime Minister is quite a popular figure overseas, she faces growing voter dissatisfaction and has been criticised for the strict COVID-19 elimination policies her government introduced during the initial stages of the pandemic.

Ms Ardern has been in Australia on a trade and tourism mission, joining Anthony Albanese for the Australian Leadership Forum in Sydney on Thursday, where they discussed everything from climate change to trans-Tasman trade.

She was then interviewed on Thursday night’s episode of the ABC show, where she was quizzed about her experience being a global celebrity.

“How does it feel to be more popular abroad than at home?” Ferguson asked.

“My total focus is at home. That’s what matters to me,” Ms Ardern replied.

Earlier in the interview, Ferguson remarked it was unusual for the leader of a small Pacific country to become an “international celebrity”, to which Ms Ardern said she wouldn’t think about herself in those terms.

“I think the rest of the world would,” Ferguson replied.

“I guess, gosh, that would be for them,” Ms Ardern said.

“For me, I will forever, first and foremost be the prime minister of New Zealand, and my focus is totally on our nation.

“If by virtue of just doing that job to the very best of my ability, there is some interest in what New Zealand does and how we do it – then I will always reflect back to the fact that all I do is magnify the Kiwi spirit.”

When Ferguson suggested that Ms Ardern had been able to take advantage of social media and use it to boost her “celebrity” status more instinctively than previous leaders, Ms Ardern replied that besides leading New Zealand in the best way she can, she felt she had a job to prove to the public that politicians are “very human”.

“Ultimately, we want people to be attracted to politics – we want people to want to do the job,” she said.

“If we give this air that you have to be completely ironclad and almost so resilient as to not to be human, people won’t see themselves wanting to enter the fray.”

Despite the tension of the interview, Ms Ardern’s trip to Australia has appeared to be mostly positive.

The Kiwi PM was the first world leader to meet with Mr Albanese in Australia last month, with the two former DJ’s exchanging band t-shirts and vinyl records.

On her latest trip, Ms Ardern also met with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet earlier on Thursday at Parliament House, and with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday.

Ms Ardern and Mr Andrews are said to have discussed climate change, mental health and infrastructure, vowing to stay in touch.

With both adopting similar hardline strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is understood that Ms Ardern had more contact with Mr Andrews than any other Australian leader during the pandemic.

Image: ABC

This article first appeared on OverSixty.