English sworn in as New Zealand PM af­ter Key exit State Ser­vices Min­is­ter named as deputy leader

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

New Zealand’s so­cially con­ser­va­tive fi­nance chief Bill English was sworn in as the coun­try’s new prime min­is­ter yes­ter­day fol­low­ing last week’s shock res­ig­na­tion of his pop­u­lar pre­de­ces­sor John Key. The cen­tre-right Na­tional Party cau­cus unan­i­mously backed English at a meet­ing yes­ter­day morn­ing and he trav­elled to Gov­ern­ment House in Welling­ton a few hours later to of­fi­cially take over. State Ser­vices Min­is­ter Paula Ben­nett was named as deputy leader.

English, 54, said he was “ex­cited and hum­bled” to take the top job af­ter eight years as Key’s deputy and fi­nance min­is­ter. “This will be a gov­ern­ment sup­port­ing eco­nomic growth and en­sur­ing that the ben­e­fits of growth are widely shared,” he told re­porters. Na­tional Party pres­i­dent Peter Good­fel­low said English and Ben­nett of­fered “a good mix­ture of ex­pe­ri­ence and fresh think­ing”. “Un­der their lead­er­ship, New Zealan­ders will con­tinue to ben­e­fit from the sta­ble gov­ern­ment they ex­pect, along with a ded­i­cated fo­cus on de­liv­er­ing re­sults for fam­i­lies and busi­nesses,” he said.

A for­mer farmer with de­grees in com­merce and lit­er­a­ture, English has been in par­lia­ment since 1990 and was pre­vi­ously leader of the Na­tional Party in 2002 when it suf­fered its worst elec­tion de­feat. “You learn more from los­ing than you do from win­ning,” said English, who will seek Na­tional’s fourth straight elec­tion win in late 2017. He was Key’s pre­ferred suc­ces­sor af­ter re­turn­ing New Zealand’s bud­get to sur­plus and keep­ing the econ­omy tick­ing over at about three per­cent.

English said New Zealand’s pros­per­ity meant the coun­try did not have the pool of dis­af­fected vot­ers re­spon­si­ble for Brexit and US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s vic­tory. And he said a pri­or­ity for his gov­ern­ment was en­sur­ing the most needy were given op­por­tu­ni­ties. “We have a strong econ­omy, al­most unique in the de­vel­oped world, and most New Zealan­ders would ex­pect to be able to share in that,” he said.

A com­mit­ted Catholic with six chil­dren, English is re­garded as far more so­cially con­ser­va­tive than Key, op­pos­ing the 2013 le­gal­iza­tion of same-sex mar­riage and speak­ing out against abor­tion and vol­un­tary eu­thana­sia. “It doesn’t de­fine me but it is an im­por­tant in­flu­ence,” he said when asked about his faith Mon­day, ad­ding that he now sup­ported gay mar­riage af­ter see­ing its pos­i­tive im­pact.

Key, who re­signed for fam­ily rea­sons af­ter eight years and prime min­is­ter and 10 as party leader, said he was look­ing for­ward to be­com­ing an anony­mous back­bencher. He con­grat­u­lated English and Ben­nett, say­ing he did not ex­pect the gov­ern­ment’s di­rec­tion to change un­der the new team.”I don’t think it will be a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent agenda un­der Bill English,” he told re­porters.

“It gives a sense of new­ness (to the gov­ern­ment) that the pub­lic prob­a­bly do want.” Op­po­si­tion La­bor Party leader An­drew Lit­tle said English’s lead­er­ship meant more of the same for vot­ers. “New Zealand has moved on, but Bill English hasn’t,” he said. “The right-wing rump of Na­tional un­der English is now re­assert­ing it­self.” Ben­nett, 47, re­vealed she had strug­gled as a teenage sin­gle mother and said the fact that she was given a sec­ond chance and had be­come deputy prime min­is­ter was “a credit to New Zealand”.

“There was a mo­ment when I was a 17-yearold Maori solo mum in Taupo, I’d left school with no qual­i­fi­ca­tions, I didn’t have a job and it looked pretty bleak,” she said. — AFP

WELLING­TON: New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter Bill English (left) stands with the Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral, Dame Patsy Reddy, af­ter be­ing sworn-in at Gov­ern­ment House in Welling­ton, New Zealand yes­ter­day. — AP

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