Christopher Luxon sworn in as New Zealand prime minister, says priority is to improve

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Christopher Luxon was sworn in as New Zealand’s prime minister on Monday and said his top priority was to improve the economy.

The 53-year-old former businessman leads a conservative coalition after his National Party struck a deal Friday with two smaller parties following a general election last month.

After the swearing-in ceremony, which was presided over by Governor-General Cindy Kiro, Luxon told reporters the job was an “awesome responsibility.”

He said he would hold his first Cabinet meeting Tuesday and look to quickly finalize a 100-day plan. He said he also planned a visit to Australia before Christmas Day.

Luxon said he needed to get a Treasury briefing on the state of the government’s finances.

“We are concerned and worried that it’s been a deteriorating picture for a number of months now,” Luxon said.

Under the coalition agreement, Luxon has promised to deliver tax cuts and train 500 more police officers within two years.

He has also promised less government bureaucracy, including a 6.5% cut to the public service.

Luxon said it would be up to ministry chief executives to figure out how to make the cuts, whether by stopping programs, not filling vacancies or laying off some workers.

The new government also plans to repeal tobacco restrictions approved last year by the previous government, including requirements for low nicotine levels in cigarettes, fewer retailers and a lifetime ban for youth.

Luxon said his government disagreed with parts of the policy, including concentrating distribution. He said smoking rates had been coming down for 30 years.

“We will continue to make sure we have good education programs and encourage people to take up vapes as a cessation tool,” Luxon said.

But critics said the plan was a setback for public health and a win for the tobacco industry.

Chris Hipkins, who officially resigned as the nation’s 41st prime minister early Monday, said he wished Luxon and his coalition partners well. He said the country had been through tough times but the economy was turning a corner.

Hipkins, who held the top job for 10 months after Jacinda Ardern unexpectedly resigned in January, plans to remain in Parliament as opposition leader.


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