Dutton crosses the ditch for whistlestop visit to Wellington

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is making a whistlestop tour of Wellington to attend a global gathering of conservative leaders.

Apr 04, 2024, updated Apr 04, 2024
Opposition leader Peter Dutton. (ABC Photo)

Opposition leader Peter Dutton. (ABC Photo)

The International Democracy Union (IDU) is hosting centre-right leaders from around the world in the capital of New Zealand, the site of one of its most recent electoral successes.

On Thursday morning, Mr Dutton shared a stage with former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

“The Liberal Party’s values of protecting the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples are increasingly important in an uncertain world,” the IDU’s X account posted on Thursday morning.

“Thank you Peter Dutton MP for your leadership in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.”

No IDU events are open to the public or media.

Mr Dutton will meet formally with New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Luxon on Thursday, with Mr Luxon tight-lipped about their discussion points.

“We will talk about generally about what he’s observing the economy, how he feels things are in Australia, talk a little bit about what things are in New Zealand,” he said.

“But also how do we build the Australia-New Zealand relationship? That’s really the focus of our conversations.”

“I want to have a stronger relationship with Australia and that means actually having strong relationships across the whole political system.”

Other Australian attendees at the IDU forum include Senators Simon Birmingham and Jane Hume and former senator Marise Payne.

The IDU says “the world’s best centre-right campaign managers” are in Wellington, a meeting place for political strategies and policy, with this summit including presentations on the use of AI in campaigning.

“Through the IDU member parties can exchange policy ideas, assist each other to win the political argument, and to win elections,” the website states.

“Today’s idea in one country is tomorrow’s policy in another.”

The National party’s recent success is likely to be of great interest to many in Wellington, including the Liberal Party contingent.

In October last year, Mr Luxon’s party swept Labour from office in an upheaval of Kiwi politics after six years of centre-left rule.

Mr Luxon inherited the top job in late 2021 when National, under Judith Collins, was beset by infighting and well behind in the polls.

“I think we’ve done a great job over the last two years to get ourselves to government and to get elected,” he said.

Mr Luxon, the National party leader, hosted IDU attendees at Premier House on Wednesday night, the site of a recent trans-Tasman controversy.

In February, he also hosted the Australian and New Zealand national men’s cricket teams at the Wellington residence of the prime minister, when Usman Khawaja said Mr Luxon told him it had been “condemned”.

“I said, ‘why don’t you live here?’ He said, ‘I’m actually not allowed, it was condemned’,” Mr Khawaja said.

That exchange kicked off a local political firestorm when it was revealed Mr Luxon was claiming an accommodation allowance worth $NZ50,000 ($A46,000) annually to live in his own apartment.

Mr Luxon – who denies using the word condemned – has since paid back that allowance.

Ms Collins, now defence minister, and tipped to take an IDU regional leadership role, lauded the the tenures of Mr Harper and Ireland’s Enda Kenny, also both in attendance.

“Both rebuilt their countries’ economies and, in Enda’s case, took Ireland from being an agricultural backwater known for exporting people, into a technology powerhouse,” she posted to social media.

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