Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has given a wide-ranging BBC interview in which he discusses New Zealand eventually becoming a republic, Māori politics, trade agreements and sausage rolls.
Speaking to BBC Sunday reporter Laura Kuenssberg from the UK after attending yesterday’s coronation, he said it was “a huge honour to be part of something that’s so historically significant”.
“I have to say that there have been some surreal moments in the past week for a boy who grew up in the working-class suburbs of Lower Hutt. Becoming Prime Minister of New Zealand was a pretty big honour, obviously coming all the way around here to this side of the world and to meet with all of the people who I have met with in the last week,” Hipkins said.
On his talk with King Charles on Friday (UK time) for a special lunch where he was gifted a tray of sausage rolls, he called the conversation “warm” and spoke about the recent impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle.
“And you know how the recovery efforts are going and also of course, that leads to a conversation around climate change,” Hipkins said.
Hipkins also reiterated his opinions on New Zealand eventually becoming a Republic.
“In my mind, it would be nice to have someone who is in New Zealand to be a head of state, having said that we, like the UK, have an unwritten constitution,” he said.
He dodged the question about if it might happen in his lifetime, but did say it will happen “eventually”, there just isn’t a “groundswell” for the cause in the present.
“I think a lot of New Zealanders take the view if it’s not broken, don’t try and fix it and, and it’s working,” Hipkins said.
He did admit, however, that if he were designing the system “this wouldn’t be the system that I was going to design”.
Hipkins confirmed he swore allegiance to the King of his country, just as he did when he was sworn in as Prime Minister.
Kuenssberg then asked about the apologies demanded by Māori from the Crown, which were presented in an open letter addressed to the King and signed by many leaders across the country. Hipkins said the Crown can’t just apologise “in a non-specific way”.
“It’s more important and more meaningful if you’re actually looking at specific harm done to specific groups of people,” Hipkins said.
“In many cases, the redress includes a full apology, and that can come from the Crown.”
He dodged the question of whether he thought the UK should follow suit with the process New Zealand has started by apologising for “horrific and horrible” things in its past, but called the practice a “very powerful thing”.
“So any other countries who are looking at doing this, you know, one of my messages is you have to do it appropriately and you have to, you have to approach it very openly and you won’t always get it right either,” Hipkins said.
He was asked about Meka Whaitiri defecting from Labour just as he left for the UK, and if he thought the Labour party “failed to represent the cause” for Māori which he vehemently disagreed with.
“Māori New Zealanders don’t all have one view politically but, you know, like every section of the population, every ethnicity, they’ll have a variety of different views,” Hipkins said.
Hipkins said he still has yet to have a discussion with Whaitiri, and won’t speak on her behalf about the reasons she claimed for joining Te Pāti Māori .
Next, Kuenssberg pressed Hipkins on the outrage of UK farmers over a recent trade agreement where they believe they are “sacrificial lambs” due to a one-sided GDP profit where New Zealand is getting 0.1 per cent profit and UK farmers only 0.3 per cent.
“Well, the UK of course, is a much, much larger economy than New Zealand,” Hipkins said.
“I think as a percentage of GDP, it’s probably not a fair comparison.”
He said he “didn’t think it was true” that UK farmers are unfairly persecuted due to the trade agreement when asked if he thought “that New Zealand cleverly pulled one over on the UK”.
Finally, they got to sausage rolls.
He refused to answer if he thought the UK sausage rolls were superior to their New Zealand counterparts.
“I’ve been asked whether the King’s sausage rolls or the Prime Minister’s were better and I’m not going to get into that because I think that would be dangerous territory for me,” Hipkins said.