Leader of the Opposition Chris Hipkins interrogates Prime Minister Christopher Luxon on Tuesday. Photo / Marty Melville
Speaker Gerry Brownlee has apologised to Labour’s leader for any implication yesterday that Chris Hipkins was responsible for bringing Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s wife Amanda into the political debate.
The apology follows yesterday’s Question Time in which the Leader of the Opposition asked Luxon about taking the clean car discount for a Tesla.
It had been discovered in June that the $8625 discount was claimed for the Luxons’ Tesla despite Luxon’s criticism of the scheme.
At the time, Luxon said the Tesla was owned by his wife, Amanda Luxon, and not him.
The exchange in Question Time yesterday led to claims by both Luxon and National’s leader of the House that Hipkins was trying to bring Luxon’s family into the debate – something Hipkins rejected by saying that it was Luxon himself who first raised his wife in an answer on the issue.
The Speaker closed the question line down, claiming it was not the responsibility of the Prime Minister, and saying it was a long-standing convention not to bring family members into the debate.
However, at the start of Question Time today, Brownlee apologised to Hipkins for that, saying he had now looked back over the footage and it was clear Luxon’s answer to the first question had brought his family into the matter.
“Any suggestion the Leader of the Opposition brought family into the debate are wrong. I unreservedly apologise to the Leader of the Opposition for any implication to the contrary from my intervention … I will be more vigilant in future.”
Brownlee also said Luxon’s answer to the first question had opened up a more political debate, and so the follow up questions on the issue were not out of order.
Hipkins had asked Luxon about his previous criticisms of the clean car discount scheme, including whether the now Prime Minister agreed with his previous statement: “I think if I can pay, I should pay”.
In response to Hipkins’ question, Luxon had said it was a matter for his wife “if that’s what you’re trying to get to there”.
Hipkins continued to ask Luxon about the discount and two statements in April and May in which Luxon had said he had a Tesla and loved it, followed by a statement in June that: “I don’t have a Tesla, my wife has one”.
Luxon said: “As I’ve previously explained, the car is owned by my wife. Those are her financial affairs. I wouldn’t bring the affairs of your family member into public discourse, because she’s not the public figure.”
At that point, Brownlee had said it was “a fairly long-standing convention in this House not to bring family members into the debate”, and Leader of the House Chris Bishop encouraged Hipkins not to break that convention.
Hipkins claimed that it was Luxon who had first made the mention of his wife, and it was legitimate to ask further questions if that was done to try to avoid answering questions about his own statements.
National last week repealed the Clean Car Discount scheme – including the discounts for clean cars, and the so-called “ute tax” on higher emitting vehicles – as part of the 100 Days plan.
In the process, Luxon was repeatedly heckled to pay back the subsidy for the Tesla, including one MP trying to put up an amendment to allow for those who wanted to, to repay it.