Cecilia Robinson: Let’s hear what Christopher Luxon really means


No matter what your political leanings, we should all be relieved that the National Party has a new leader.

After all, for democracy to flourish, we need a strong Opposition that holds the Government to account. The Opposition’s role is to question, challenge and put forward an alternative vision.

It is this contest of ideas that supports innovation and problem-solving. And while no system is perfect, it is no coincidence that the world’s wealthiest countries, whose citizens enjoy the highest quality of life, are all strong democracies.

Unfortunately, for much of the past four years, New Zealand has had a weak Opposition, with the National Party racked with infighting and animosity.

For too long, they have been focusing their competitive energy against each other, rather than on the good of the country. In doing so, they have let New Zealanders down.

The frustration I felt at the state of the National Party is the same as the frustration I felt when the Labour Party suffered its own leadership challenges.

So I am hopeful that with the selection of Luxon as leader, a line can be drawn in the sand and the National Party can start focusing on the issues that really matter to New Zealanders.

And there is fertile ground for Luxon to make his mark: the Government’s reactive response to Covid, the state of our health and education systems, and our never-ending housing crisis.

These are complex issues for which there are no easy answers. But this is what we expect our politicians to be debating.

But we should also expect our media to be interrogating politicians on our behalf. That is their job.

Therefore I expected journalists to be questioning Luxon hard on what a National Party led by him would look like.

What were his policy priorities and what would he do if he was fortunate to be elected Prime Minister?

Instead, I saw a focus on how many houses he owned, and I heard about the make of car in which he was driven to Parliament.

I also have heard never-ending coverage of his religious beliefs.

The narrative that has been put forward by some is that if you are wealthy, successful or conservative, you should somehow be disqualified from holding public office.

This is something I vehemently disagree with. So let’s examine some of these issues the media have brought up.

Let’s start with Luxon’s faith. He has made no secret of the fact that he is a Christian. He is entitled to have his faith and has also made it clear that his faith will not interfere with his politics.

Our system is set up to allow all voices to be heard. Both our major parties are broad churches that have both liberal and conservative wings. That is why we have conscience votes to make decisions on potentially contentious issues.

While his view, being pro-life, differs from my own (being pro-choice), I have confidence that this won’t impact his decision making.

He has ruled out legislative changes around abortion should he become Prime Minister.

As he said, there are New Zealanders who have pro-life views and there are New Zealanders who have pro-choice views, but we can hold different views and be respectful of each other. I agree.

Choosing Nicola Willis as his deputy was the right move to demonstrate that he understands that he needs a liberal balance and he is putting words into action.

It takes political skill to bring the various factions of your party together. Jacinda Ardern mastered this in her role as leader of the Labour Party when she herself took office, and Luxon will need to continue on his current trajectory if he wants a chance in 2023.

Next, his wealth, which is probably the most concerning aspect of the narrative. Some media have gone out of their way to demonise his success, and the wealth he has earned in this process.

At its heart, the criticism reflects poorly on those journalists who choose to pursue a tall poppy narrative rather than focusing on the real issues.

These people are quick to judge our successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople as if they have something to apologise for. They don’t.

Luxon should not apologise for his success, the number of houses he has, or the car he drives. Instead, we should be grateful that someone with his background and experience is willing to serve in public office.

Yes, success brings financial rewards. But this is the result of incredibly hard work and huge personal sacrifice.

Every successful businessperson or entrepreneur I have ever met has sacrificed to get to where they have got to — late nights, time away from their families and missing milestones with their children. Isn’t making these sacrifices a trait we want in a leader?

These people have taken significant risks in the hope of reaping rewards. They have backed themselves and they have won. But there are many others who have risked and lost. Success is never guaranteed, even with hard work.

Becoming a CEO of a significant company is no easy ride and I have no doubt that Luxon has put in the hours to reach the pinnacle of many people’s aspirations.

I know from personal experience that it takes a lot of hard work to become a successful leader and that there are lessons you learn from running big businesses which are hard to replicate elsewhere.

These lessons accumulate and are one of the reasons why success begets success.

Some argue that Luxon is a political novice but I have no doubt this is one of his biggest strengths.

Parliament is already full of career politicians; it is nice to have someone with real-world experience step up to make their voice heard.

Luxon’s career at Unilever to Air New Zealand, and now into Parliament, has allowed him to accumulate experience that will hold him in good stead.

At the end of the day, whether you are running Unilever, Air New Zealand or New Zealand, it all comes down to how you lead your people.

People are not sector-specific. Leaders who can articulate their vision while inspiring belief in others and unite their team, even at the toughest of times, are what this country needs.

This is what Ardern did so successfully at the start of 2020.While it is early days, Luxon appears to be doing it with the National Party.

So, enough of the tabloid stories. Instead of worrying about how big Luxon’s bank account is, let’s focus on what is important — what he would do if he was Prime Minister.

The media have a critical role to play in asking these questions helping voters make up their mind. That is why we now need them to step up and start asking the questions that matter. After all, the future of our country depends on it.

– Cecilia Robinson is the founder and co-CEO of health startup Tend.

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