2 Mar 2022

National Party leader Christopher Luxon calls for Russian ambassador to be expelled

9:46 am on 2 March 2022

The National Party leader says the time for diplomacy with regard to Russia's invasion of Ukraine is "well and truly over" and New Zealand should send a strong message by minimising diplomatic ties.

Christopher Luxon

Christopher Luxon Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

"Our view is we should expel the Russian ambassador, we should withdraw our own diplomat," Christopher Luxon said.

Luxon told Morning Report the time for diplomacy was over "some weeks ago" and it was clear president Putin had "absolutely no intention of engaging constructively through diplomacy anymore".

He said National supported everything the government had done in response to the crisis so far, but felt there were further steps that could be taken.

Luxon reiterated his party's view that New Zealand should adopt an Autonomous Sanctions Bill.

"New Zealand can express a point of view ... through a multilateral forum like the UN, but because we're unlike our partners who have discrete bits of legislation that enable them to levy their own sanctions individually, we can't do that."

Russia's ability to veto UN resolutions at Security Council level meant New Zealand was currently limited in the strength of its response, he said.

"We think our response would be strengthened by having an Autonomous Sanctions Bill where we can join our traditional partners in punitive action."

Luxon said the government had not been in touch with National to discuss any such legislation, but he would be "happy to work with them on that".

"There's clearly the need for us to have the equivalent of an autonomous sanctions bill in place here in New Zealand and whether the government starts that up, whether they take the bill that we've already drafted ... we're happy to work with them to get it in place."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday flagged a law allowing New Zealand to bring more sanctions to bear against Russia.

Targeted export and travel bans are already in place in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Luxon said National would also like to see a special humanitarian visa created for the immediate family members of the 1500 Ukrainians already in New Zealand.

"They're highly anxious about their loved ones back at home in Ukraine and, you know, there's people in some pretty desperate situations."

He said New Zealand also needed to make sure its immigration department was "fast-tracking and prioritising" visa applications for Ukrainians who were already in the system.

Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi is promising applications from Ukrainians wanting to come to New Zealand and those already here on temporary visas will be prioritised by immigration officials.

Praise for police dealing with Wellington protest

Luxon wouldn't be drawn on the speed of the police's response to the ongoing protest situation in Wellington, saying it was not up to politicians to dictate how police carried out their duties.

Police say a "pre-planned operation" is underway outside Parliament this morning, with at least four large police wagons stationed outside the occupation area and a helicopter flying overhead.

Luxon said the protest had not been supported by any parliamentarians because of the way the protesters had "disrespected and abused their fellow citizens" and the police had done "an exceptional job".

"It's good that we're now moving on the protesters because it is time that it comes to an end and it's time that people in Wellington, who've been horribly inconvenienced - terribly abused at times - that needs to stop."

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