PM defends 'C-list' comments

Christopher Luxon speaking to media earlier this week. Photo: RNZ
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon. Photo: RNZ
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has again sought to defend his comments about previous delegations being "C-list", having told Newstalk ZB the business leaders travelling with him were of high calibre compared to those under Labour.

In Tokyo on Tuesday, he told media the comments had been taken out of context.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins told Morning Report the following day the group he took to China had included chief executives and chairs from major exporters, and Luxon should stop talking "himself up by talking other people down".

Luxon, speaking to media travelling with him on his three-day trip to Japan, now admits he "could have expressed it in a better way".

He said the C-list comment was about being excited that "when we come on delegations we're curating and bringing a business delegation that can do business in the markets that we're going to".

He also faced questions over whether his officials advocated with the delegation of Chinese Premier Li Qiang during his visit to New Zealand last week for local reporters to be allowed to ask questions.

The previous Chinese premier Li Keqiang took at least one question from media during his visit to NZ in 2017.

President Xi Jinping also took one question during his visit in 2014.

Luxon said "they do press conferences differently", and argued Australia's Anthony Albanese had followed the same process. However, Albanese recently intervened after Chinese officials appeared to try to block a Chinese-Australian journalist from participating in the press conference in Australia.

Luxon said he was not aware of that case, and suggested if there were similar complaints they should be formally raised.

Asked if he and his officials push back on allowing for New Zealand's free press to be asking questions, he says there is an "awful lot of work, as you can well imagine ... from officials about how the programme will be".

He also appears to have changed his tune on replacing the Defence Force's Boeing 757s, saying it cannot be put off much longer.