NZ Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has appetite for change but is it for a Republic?

Latika M Bourke
The Nightly
4 Min Read
King Charles, left, and New Zealand PM Christopher Luxon.
King Charles, left, and New Zealand PM Christopher Luxon. Credit: The Nightly

Christopher Luxon says while it is possible New Zealand may become a Republic in his lifetime, the issue is not one of his top priorities as Prime Minister.

Luxon also waded into the debate about whether the Kiwi emoji should be depicted by the Kiwi Bird or the Kiwi fruit.

“I go a Kiwi bird all day long, yep,” he said, lending his weight to a local campaign for the creators of the emojis to produce New Zealand’s first native animal picture.

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On a Republic, the prime minister said he thought it would happen in his lifetime but said it wasn’t a project he would be pursuing as prime minister.

“I think it’s quite possible,” the 53-year-old said in an exclusive interview with The Nightly.

“I’m a soft Republican but actually there isn’t a big appetite, frankly, in New Zealand at this point in time.”

He said Kiwis were in a difficult place because of the dire economic conditions inherited from the Labour government which lost government last year.

“Everything went backwards, so it’s a unique and special skill set that the Labour government had for six years to be able to do so much damage,” he said.

New Zealand’s cash rate is at 5.5 per cent, inflation is at 4 per cent and the economy recorded negative growth for four of the last five quarters, meaning the country is in recession. Unemployment is rising and the jobless rate stands at 4.3 per cent.

“We’re focused on getting that inflation down below three per cent and we’re currently at four,” Luxon, leader of the National Party, said.

“So in the context of where New Zealand’s at the moment, the Republican debate is not something – people are genuinely trying to get through paycheck-to-paycheck in a week and doing it tough.

“At some point, there’ll be a conversation about that but it’s a long way off.”

Lewis Holden, chairman of New Zealand Republic, said about 41 per cent of Kiwis supported a referendum.

“There’s no perfect time for making change any time, ever,” Holden said in an interview.

“The bread and butter issues will always be there and politicians are elected to deal with them.

“Absolutely, yes, we recognise there are economic issues and people are doing it tough but this issue is about the entire country, and we can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Holden, 40, said he thought it was not possible but certain that New Zealand would cut ties with the monarchy in his lifetime.

“Since the end of the Queen’s reign, I’m more convinced than ever because it’s pretty obvious that the Queen held it all together.

“You look at the Royal Family now and say ‘really?’ I can’t see the conflicts with Harry ending any time soon.”

He said both Australia and New Zealand were experiencing a decline in the level of integration with the UK as their countries diversified their populations.

Both countries are in the position of being led by prime ministers from opposing sides of politics who still support Republicanism but also have no plan to reopen the debate.

While Prime Minister Anthony Albanese appointed a minister for the Republic the government has said it won’t pursue a referendum following the defeat of the Voice last year.

Additionally, the Australian Republican movement is searching for new leadership after its co-chairs, former sporting champions Craig Foster and Nova Peris quit after a stoush over their opposing stances on the Israel-Gaza conflict.

In his first comments addressing the infighting, Isaac Jeffrey, CEO of the Australia Republic Movement said the movement united people from all walks of life and political ideologies.

“Meredith Doig’s leadership as our Acting Chair will ensure a smooth transition to a new board following elections in coming weeks and ensure our continued focus is on delivering a referendum-winning campaign for an Aussie republic,” he said.

“Because we know this is the moment for our nation and for an Aussie Head of State.”

He said governments needed to multitask and stop using the excuse of nation-building to pass the buck.

“Politicians shouldn’t get a free pass on nation-building reform, because there are other issues that need their attention,” he said.

“Australia and New Zealand are both ready to become republics.

“They are both proud independent nations which no longer see the monarchy as relevant.

“The people see Charles as the Head of the UK, not as King of Australia and New Zealand.”

Jeffrey said Australia and New Zealand becoming republics would unleash global champions of both countries as the local Heads of State could advocate for and showcase their countries to the world, in a way the King and Governers-General do not.


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