Luxon sworn in as new prime minister of New Zealand

Former airline boss takes over six weeks after his conservative National Party won national elections

By AFP

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Mon 27 Nov 2023, 8:39 AM

Former airline boss Christopher Luxon formally took office as New Zealand's prime minister Monday, vowing to tame inflation and bring down interest rates.

Luxon took over six weeks after his conservative National Party won national elections, ending a six-year Labour Party reign ushered in by Jacinda Ardern.

Luxon, 53, once chief executive of Air New Zealand, was sworn in as head of a new coalition government by New Zealand's governor-general in a ceremony in the capital Wellington.

"It is an honour and an awesome responsibility," Luxon told reporters.

"The number one job is to fix the economy. We have to reduce the cost of living and get inflation under control so we can lower interest rates and make food more affordable."

Luxon said his new government would also focus in its first few months on restoring law and order and improving public services.

"We need to go to work," he said.

The former Labour government had struggled to control the rising cost of living, a global issue blamed in part on pandemic-related supply issues and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The previous prime minister, Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins, took over from Ardern in January.

She had unexpectedly resigned, calling an end to her five-year period in office because she no longer had "enough in the tank".

Luxon said his cabinet would meet over the next two days with a focus on signing off their plans for the first 100 days in office.

National has promised to crack down on crime, ban cellphones in schools and scrap planned fuel tax hikes.

"A lot of our focus is on tackling the underlying cause of inflation," Luxon said.

"That means a series of things to make sure we generate savings out of the public service and that government spending is prudent."

Luxon becomes the 42nd prime minister of New Zealand after protracted coalition talks came to an agreement on Friday.

His National party has formed a three-party coalition with the conservative ACT and populist New Zealand First parties to govern in the 123-seat parliament.

In a first for New Zealand, the deputy prime minister role will be shared in two 18-month stints.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, 78, was sworn in alongside Luxon as deputy prime minister, but will hand over the role at the end of May 2025.

He will be replaced by ACT leader David Seymour for the remainder of the three-year parliamentary term.

Luxon, a father of two, is a wealthy teetotaller and lover of country music who rose to prominence when he ran the national airline for seven years before entering politics.

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