‘Unambitious’ Luxon vs ‘irrelevant’ Hipkins: Leaders trade barbs from the regions

With Labour and National both taking time to reflect after the government’s first 100 days, the leaders are looking at next steps – and engaging in a bit of verbal sparring.

Relegated to opposition after the election, Labour’s Chris Hipkins delayed his party’s usual late-January caucus retreat to March, after the coalition’s first 100 days and an unusually long four-week sitting block.

The retreat is where the party’s MPs gather for a day or two to reflect, strategise and plan for the year ahead.

This is Hipkins’ first as party leader, and his opening remarks set out his plan to rebuild the party after its stinging defeat in last year’s election. Tax also remains a critical area of disagreement within the party – but he has signalled the public should not expect a new policy on that for the next year at least.

National was meanwhile taking the opportunity to show it was delivering on its promises, unveiling a trio of announcements on rural issues – drought relief, significant natural areas, and animal facial eczema – while the prime minister and a selection of National and ACT MPs did the rounds at Field Days in Feilding.

The coalition has been under pressure over its frequent of urgency, often pushing laws through with no chance for public feedback through the select committee stage. Hipkins had said it was the government “acting like a dictatorship”.

Speaking to media about midday, Luxon said that was just desperation.

“Chris Hipkins is a desperate individual, right? And it’s great that he’s having his off-site today, and I noticed it’s in Kieran McAnulty’s Wairarapa District, which is lovely,” he said, a reference to his own previous claims in Parliament that McAnulty would take the Labour leadership.

Christopher Luxon at Field Days in Feilding on 14 March 2024.

He brushed off Labour and Hipkins both as “irrelevant”, arguing it was time for Hipkins to move on.

“He has left … a record over the last six years that he can’t be very proud about at all … we are very straight up about it. We opposed many of the dumb and stupid things that that last government did.

“Chris Hipkins has had his go, right? I mean, they had six years, they had the last three under an absolute majority … he’s had his turn, and they failed, is the short answer.”

Luxon was confident New Zealanders supported his government’s approach.

“There’s something called the election, which was very clear,” he said. “People greatly appreciate the action and the delivery and the getting things done, people are over it. That’s what this election was all about.”

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon scoops dirt in a digger at Field Days in Feilding on 14 March 2024.

Hipkins – speaking shortly after – disagreed, saying the government had shown what it wanted to repeal, stop and cancel “but they don’t actually have a plan for New Zealand’s future”.

“By just setting quarterly targets that are unambitious, he can try and create the perception that they’re being successful in government,” he said.

“I think what New Zealanders really deserve to see from this government is what their overall vision for the future of the country is and they’re not giving any indications that they’ve got one.”

He laughed off Luxon’s leadership spill claim, and returned fire.

“Let me make a prediction first: I’ll still be the leader of the Labour Party long after Christopher Luxon has been rolled as the leader of the National Party,” he said.

Chris Hipkins
Labour MPs gather for their annual retreat in the Wairarapa. Labour Away on 14 March 2024.

“I’ve been in opposition before when there have been fractures in the team and they are not fractures in this team. Actually, this is a team that’s very focused on the job that we’ve got ahead of us to be a good opposition and to win the next election.”

McAnulty, standing alongside Hipkins, backed his leader.

“If things were going well for the prime minister, he wouldn’t feel the need to start talking about that sort of nonsense. I’ve made it really clear, as has everyone in the caucus that we are 100 percent, behind Chippy, we back him, we want him to be our leader, and we want him to be the next PM.”

Hipkins did not appear concerned about any challenge to Labour’s position from the Green Party, after Chlöe Swarbrick’s election as co-leader over the weekend alongside Marama Davidson.

“When you’re in government, there’s a certain relationship of co-opetition,” he said. “You know, we’re competing and we’re cooperating at the same time, and you can actually do both.”

Chris Hipkins
Labour MPs gather for their annual retreat in the Wairarapa. Labour Away on 14 March 2024.

He suggested the party would be thinking about its approach to tax, but seemed confident differences of opinion on it within the party could be resolved.

“There will be a range of views but I’m absolutely confident that everybody here is committed to the team and so of course you’d expect to have different views and I know as a team, we will work through those.

“The nature of work has changed. The nature of the jobs people are doing has changed. We need to adapt and evolve to that. So the gig economy … we started this conversation with the Future Of Work when we were last in opposition and will continue it now.

“We shouldn’t shy away from the fact that people will have different views either, but tax doesn’t say in isolation from other issues, our policy on tax will fit with our wider economic policy and our wider social policy as well.”

The party was, however, unlikely to be putting out their tax policy in the next year, he said.

Luxon declined to comment on Labour’s tax conundrum.

“These are all issues for the Labour Party to work out,” he said. “What’s obvious over the last six years is that Labour have mismanaged this economy tremendously, there has been huge amounts of what I’d call economic vandalism.

“We are the coalition government and we’re getting the job done and we’re really clear about it. We’re here to deliver. We’re here to get things done. We’re here to improve outcomes. That’s how we improve daily Kiwis lives. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

“We’re just getting on with the job that we’ve got to do, which is to get things done for New Zealanders. Frankly, the Labour Party is irrelevant. They can say whatever they want to. We’re not focused on them. We’re focused on New Zealanders.”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button