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Chris Hipkins succeeds Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister

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Known for his muscular response to the Covid pandemic, the new New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who took over from Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday, January 25, is widely recognized as a firm-handed leader.

Frankness and self-mockery

The 44-year-old former police and education minister emerged as the only Labor Party candidate to replace Jacinda Ardern after the latter’s surprise resignation, announced on January 19.

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“It is the greatest privilege and the greatest responsibility of my life”said Chris Hipkins after officially becoming Prime Minister, saying to himself “motivated” and ” enthusiastic “ It front of “challenges that arise”.

First designated leader of the Labor Party on Sunday, he was formally invested on Wednesday by the Governor General, representative of King Charles III in New Zealand.

“I hope New Zealanders see me as someone who is outspoken, unafraid to admit mistakes and who is self-deprecating”he had declared, freshly selected, to the journalists.

· Minister in charge of the fight against Covid-19

Chris Hipkins has been hailed for his almost two-year term as minister in charge of the fight against Covid-19, in a country which closed its borders to ward off the pandemic, before reopening them only in August 2022.

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Last year he admitted people were fed up with strict health restrictions, describing border closures as “difficult”.

An “extremely competent” man

The best description comes from Chris Hipkins himself who gave it to reporters outside Wellington’s Houses of Parliament: “I think I’m relatively outspoken, relatively inclusive. People aren’t going to die wondering what I’m thinking.”.

He had been police minister since June 2022, a key role given criticism leveled at the government’s crime record. Previously, he had served for more than five years as Minister of Education and Minister of Public Service.

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Chris Hipkins “will be an incredibly strong prime minister”predicted the Minister of Justice Kiri Allan, a Maori MP from the Labor Party, herself approached for the post. ‘He is extremely capable and has proven himself for New Zealand as one of our most important ministers over the past six years’she pointed out.

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Chris Hipkins, who describes himself as a “outdoor enthusiast” loving mountain biking, hiking and swimming – and admits he may not be the best dressed in Parliament – studied politics and criminology at the University of Victoria and later worked in the industrial training. Before becoming an MP in 2008, he was the senior adviser to two education ministers and former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

· Controversies with Australia

Although known as a kind and easy-going conversationalist, Chris Hipkins was embroiled in high-profile feuds with Australia’s former Conservative government.

In 2021 he accused Australia of“Export Garbage” to New Zealand – a reference to Canberra’s controversial policy of deporting criminals to their country of birth.

A few years earlier, in 2017, Chris Hipkins was admonished by Jacinda Ardern for being accused of playing a role in a dual citizenship scandal in the Australian Parliament.

Then-Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was forced to resign after reports to Chris Hipkins revealed that Barnaby Joyce held dual Australian and New Zealand citizenship. The Australian Constitution prohibits federal politicians from sitting in Parliament if they hold dual nationality. Jacinda Ardern said at the time that Chris Hipkins’ actions were “unacceptable”.

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