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The BulletinMay 2, 2023

Hipkins off to UK in first major overseas jaunt


He’s in London for the coronation, and to put some friendly pressure on PM Rishi Sunak over our free trade agreement, writes Catherine McGregor in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

Off to see the King, and his fellow PM

It can be hard to believe it’s already been more than seven months since the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, until you remember that Jacinda Ardern – still months away from announcing her resignation as prime minister – was New Zealand’s representative at Westminster Abbey. Now it’s Chris Hipkins who is on his way to the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday, accompanied by a delegation including opposition leader Christopher Luxon. Speaking to media before his departure last night, Hipkins said he would be pledging his allegiance to the King despite his personal view that New Zealand should separate itself from the monarchy. “I’m on record as being a republican… But I’ve also indicated it’s not a priority for me. It’s not something I intend to push.” While in London, Hipkins will meet with British prime minister Rishi Sunak, with a focus on speeding up the legal commencement date for the New Zealand-UK free trade agreement (FTA) signed last year. Under the FTA, the UK will eliminate all tariffs on New Zealand exports, and give duty-free quota access for NZ beef, lamb, butter and cheese.

Increased NZ support for Ukraine’s defence on the cards

As part of his UK trip, Hipkins will visit New Zealand Defence Force personnel who are giving infantry training to new members of the Ukrainian military, most of whom are civilian volunteers. Hipkins plans to make an announcement there about further support for the Ukrainian defence effort, having spoken with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky last night. Political scientist Robert Patman tells RNZ it’s “absolutely critical” that New Zealand steps up its support for Ukraine. “If you contrast New Zealand’s contribution with that of Australia and Canada… even taking into account we’re a much smaller country than either, [ours] is still much smaller than they’ve contributed.” The NZ announcement will come at a critical moment for the Ukraine war effort. “After blunting a Russian push over the winter, the Ukrainian military is on the cusp of launching a counteroffensive against occupying forces,” Time magazine reports, in a story on the race to arm Ukraine with the weapons it needs.

Will Chris meet Joe in PNG?

One international meeting Hipkins could not confirm yesterday was with Joe Biden. The US president will be in Papua New Guinea on May 22, and PNG’s Post Courier newspaper has claimed Hipkins will be one of 18 Pacific Island Forum leaders to meet with him in Port Moresby. Hipkins says that is still speculation. “That event has not yet been confirmed and therefore no invitation has been received,” he told reporters yesterday. However, should an invitation be issued, he said he’d accept it if it fitted with his schedule. Biden’s visit to PNG is a sign of the “heightened geo-strategic competition between Washington and Beijing” across the Asia-Pacific region, writes the NZ Herald. “While the US has repeatedly insisted its renewed interest is driven by a desire to help Pacific Island nations tackle serious threats such as climate change and illegal fishing, the reality is the jockeying with China is an underlying driving force.”

In the high court, another royal saga plays out

As Charles prepares for his coronation this Saturday, his son is preparing for battle. Prince Harry has launched legal proceedings against Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, publisher of the Sun and the Times, alleging “the company targeted him with widespread illegal activity for much of his life, including hacking his voicemails and illegally obtaining personal information in the name of journalism”, the Guardian reports. Many of Harry’s allegations relate to claims of illegal behaviour at the Sun, which News UK has always said was not involved in the phone hacking scandal that forced the closure of its News of the World paper in 2011. Before the trial can proceed, a judge must decide whether Harry can bring the case at all – News UK’s lawyers claim he waited too long to launch proceedings. That hearing is scheduled for later today.

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