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John MacDonald: Luxon needs to put Winston in his place

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 Nov 2023, 12:35PM
Photos / Michael Craig and Alex Burton
Photos / Michael Craig and Alex Burton

John MacDonald: Luxon needs to put Winston in his place

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 Nov 2023, 12:35PM

Do you think Christopher Luxon might be starting to feel a little bit like Princess Diana, who famously said her marriage to Charles was never going to work because there were three people in the relationship?

And how she tried to turn a blind eye to his bad behaviour, until she couldn’t.

The new Prime Minister obviously isn’t at that point yet because there he was yesterday continuing to turn a blind eye to the nonsense his deputy, Winston Peters, has been getting up to pretty much on a daily basis since the coalition deal was announced last Friday.

You’ll know by now how he’s taken every opportunity to slam the last government’s Public Interest Journalism Fund and take potshots at reporters. Calling them morons during the big coalition deal reveal last week.

Having another go at them during the photo op at the first Cabinet meeting the other day. Saying in one interview this week that he’s at war with the mainstream media.

And, straight after being sworn in, he had a go at TVNZ ad RNZ - saying the two taxpayer-funded media outfits had been mouthpieces for the last government. That they lacked independence.

Which would’ve had Luxon squirming. Just like he was squirming when Peters started banging on during the coalition announcement. Remember that? The PM kind-of intervening saying “alright, alright”.

And that’s about as tough as the talking has got from Luxon when it comes to Winston Peters. And the weasel words continued yesterday at the post-Cabinet media conference and the announcement about the 100-day plan.

When he was asked about his deputy’s behaviour and his allegations that journalists and media organisations were bribed by the Labour government, Christopher Luxon said: “It's not the way I would describe it.”

Then he went on to say that he actually doesn’t support the fund either and that many New Zealanders feel the same way.

But that’s not the point. Whether-or-not Luxon agrees with Winston Peters’ opinion is irrelevant.

Example: I’m as disgusted as the next person by the embarrassing u-turn on the smokefree changes. But, even then, I’m not going to start saying that the Government is guilty of "deliberate, systemic genocide". That’s what Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is saying today.

Now I agree with her opposition to the changes, but I’m not going to sign-up to the language she’s using.

And that's what Luxon should be doing with Winston Peters. It’s fine if he agrees the Public Interest Journalism Fund was a bad idea, but there is no way he should be letting Peters away with the stuff he’s been getting up to. And the way our deputy Prime Minister has been abusing journalists.

A key thing for me from Luxon’s performance yesterday, was something he said about his dealings with Winston Peters.

It was when he was asked whether he had spoken to Peters about his comments and his behaviour.

He refused to say specifically whether he had had a word to Winston about all the anti-media stuff. But he did say: “We’re going to say things in different ways as different leaders, that’s acceptable.”

Hold on a minute. We’re going to say things in different ways as different leaders? That might very well be the case when you’re talking about leaders of different parties. But that is not what you say when you’re talking about a government.

Because, in a government, there is only one leader. And Christopher Luxon needs to show he is the leader and tell his deputy to pull his head in.

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