13 Nov 2023

'Highly unlikely' Christopher Luxon will attend APEC summit

11:26 am on 13 November 2023
National Party leader Christopher Luxon out on the campaign trail for the 2023 election.

Christopher Luxon. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Incoming prime minister Christopher Luxon says it is "highly unlikely" he will attend APEC in San Francisco this week.

But someone from the caretaker government would be attending the summit

Luxon told Morning Report progress was being made as coalition talks with ACT and New Zealand First entered the second week after confirmation of the final election result.

"It would be nice to go, but the must-do is actually forming a strong and stable government, that is really my job.

"There will be opportunities for me to build bilateral relationships and also to signal to the business community around the world that we're open for business again in New Zealand, but ... that's a 'nice to do', the 'must do' is actually forming a government."

Labour leader Chris Hipkins and his government ministers have been re-sworn into their roles as caretakers and Luxon said it would be up to Hipkins who represented New Zealand at APEC.

"It's a decision for the government and there'll be someone from the caretaker government representing."

Luxon said he was "very comfortable" the outgoing government could represent New Zealand well at APEC.

"By-and-large ... we have a pretty bilateral approach to foreign affairs."

Had he been able to attend himself, Luxon said his key messages would have been around New Zealand being "open for business again".

"There's obviously a big economic and business focus to APEC and I wanted to signal very strongly that we are open for business again and that we want to hustle in the world and we want to drive trade much harder."

'We need to get things closed out'

The ongoing discussions between National, ACT and New Zealand First had been held in a "very constructive, very productive way", Luxon said, and trade-offs were required from "everybody, at some level".

Collage of Winston Peters, Christopher Luxon and David Seymour

Discussions between ACT, New Zealand First and National to form a government are continuing. Photo: RNZ

"The good news is that we have very good alignment around our big goals - around how we strengthen the economy, law and order, deliver better public services, strengthen democracy in New Zealand and more unity and so those are all good things."

Each party had a slightly different take on how best to deliver those things, he said.

"I'm pleased with the progress and the direction of travel, but we do now need to get things closed out."

Luxon repeated his party's commitment to delivering tax relief to lower and middle-income New Zealanders but would not be drawn on how they would be funded.

"That is a key thing that we campaigned on - we will deliver tax relief to low and middle-income New Zealanders."

However he was not prepared to discuss anything that was talked about by the parties' leaders in coalition discussions.

"We're acting in good faith and with goodwill with each other."

'Choices have to be made'

Luxon said reintroducing some prescription fees would enable more money to be spent on cancer treatments.

The Labour government scrapped the standard $5 co-pay fee for prescriptions in July but National campaigned on reintroducing the fees for adults except those who hold a Community Services Card or a SuperGold card.

Healthcare professionals have called for the prescription subsidies to remain, with a new survey finding two-thirds of community pharmacies built patient numbers between July and October and pharmacists were able to help more with frontline care.

But Luxon said New Zealand had a limited pool of money and he would sooner see the money spent on improving access to cancer treatments.

"We're a country that has limited resources and we're in a very difficult place thanks to the Labour government that's run our economy into the ground and the choices have to be made," he said.

"We have 15 percent higher mortality rate than Australians on cancer and so why don't we take that money, get those cancer treatments for Kiwis that need it, and give them a better shot."

Economic, environmental interests need to be balanced in mining consideration - Luxon

Asked what a National-led government's approach to the mining of minerals on conservation land would be, Luxon said the issue would be handled sensitively.

"It's a key part of our economy, we'll do that in a sensitive way that balances all those interests - economic and environmental."

Mining industry advocacy group Straterra chief executive Josie Vidal told TVNZ's Q&A programme on Sunday that businesses were looking forward to a government that was more "enabling and permissive".

National MP Maureen Pugh, who won the West Coast-Tasman seat in the recent election, asked by the same programme whether she would be against further milling of native forest in the region, said: "I can't answer that today."

But asked the same question by Morning Report, Luxon said: "I don't see that happening."

"We really want to make sure that, where there's opportunities, particularly on the West Coast - but also where there's huge global demand for minerals that we have here in New Zealand - that we balance economic and environmental interests."

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