He appears weak, and there are now murmurings from some commentators about his continued leadership of the party. Removing him from the leadership is unlikely, but the mere fact that it’s being talked about is bad news for National.
It seems Luxon lacks the decisiveness required of the leader of the opposition. All too often he is endorsing the policies of the parties he should be opposing. The current state of emergency is an example.
Radio NZ reported he supported the state of emergency that had been declared. While that is a given, it’s his follow-up comments that fell short. He simply parroted what everyone else has been saying - that emergency responders and community groups have been doing an incredible job and people should follow Civil Defence advice and warnings.
That touchy-feely response is all well and good, but what he appears to have not appreciated is that opposition politics is more than back-slapping and reading stories to a Kindy class.
Why on earth did Chris Luxon not deal with the very real issues that cyclone Gabrielle has exposed?
Is he not concerned that much of the country was without cell phone coverage? Clearly there was a failure with cell phone towers and their backup power systems. Some lost coverage as soon as the power went out and for many, it remained out for three days and longer. That is totally unacceptable. Chris Luxon should be all over that issue. Why not say National would fix that problem by requiring cell phone tower owners to have robust power backup systems? (As a matter of interest, last year Vodafone sold its cell towers in a $1 billion deal to overseas interests.)
Why didn’t he talk about the incredible damage forestry waste (slash) has caused to public infrastructure and private property? It is simply not acceptable that pine logs and branches take out bridges and isolate communities. Not only is that a cost to councils and property owners, but lives are at risk and businesses suffer. Why doesn’t Chris Luxon say the government has turned a blind eye to this issue and that forestry owners must take responsibility for the damage their by-product is causing?
And why not attack the government’s carbon farming policy that is likely to exacerbate the problem when the never-to-be-harvested pine trees eventually collapse?
Why did he not talk about the inability of stormwater infrastructure to cope. Why didn’t he say that’s a significant issue National would fix.
Surely a competent opposition would have hastily prepared an action plan that highlighted the shortcomings and developed policy around each of the action points? Instead, Chris Luxon pats Labour on the back for declaring a state of emergency?
Then there’s climate change. National has elevated Todd Muller to the climate change shadow portfolio and has offered cross-party support on a climate adaptation plan. By elevating the pro-climate change Muller and supporting the net carbon zero 2050 goals, National may as well just say it is endorsing the Green Party’s extremism. Does National not realise that being a party in opposition means it is their job to offer better policy? If they can’t offer anything better than the status quo, why vote for National?
And co-governance. Chris Luxon says we New Zealanders don't have a good idea of what Māori co-governance means. He offers a nuanced position that it’s OK sometimes, but sometimes it’s not OK. Clearly National does not understand that the electorate wants a yes or no response to co-governance.
National no longer has the advantage of the hated Ardern as their alternative. Now they must win on their own merits and to do that National has to think and act more like the main opposition party