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New Zealand PM plans to ban mobile use in schools and repeal tobacco controls

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Christopher Luxon outlined his proposals (New Zealand Herald via AP)
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Christopher Luxon outlined his proposals (New Zealand Herald via AP) New Zealand’s Prime Minister Christopher Luxon outlined his proposals (New Zealand Herald via AP)

New Zealand’s new Prime Minister plans to ban mobile phone use in schools and repeal tobacco controls in an ambitious agenda for his first 100 days in office.

Christopher Luxon outlined 49 actions he said his conservative government intends to take over the next three months.

The first new law he plans to pass would narrow the central bank’s mandate to focus purely on keeping inflation in check, he said.

That would change the Reserve Bank’s current dual focus on low inflation and high employment.

Many of the actions in the 100-day plan involve repealing initiatives from the previous liberal government, which had been in office for six years. The new efforts include a plan to double renewable energy production.

Mr Luxon said the measures are aimed at improving the economy.

Many of his plans are proving contentious, including the one to repeal tobacco restrictions approved last year by the previous government. Those included requirements for low nicotine levels in cigarettes, fewer tobacco retailers and a lifetime ban for young people.

Mr Luxon’s government has said that ending the tobacco restrictions – which were not due to take effect until next year – would bring in more tax dollars, although the Prime Minister said this was not a case of trading health for money.

New Zealand leaders
New Zealand leaders Mr Luxon said New Zealanders can expect tax cuts, more police on the streets and reductions to government bureaucracy (NZ Herald via AP)

He said: “We are sticking with the status quo.

“We are going to continue to drive smoking rates down across New Zealand under our government.”

Critics say the plan is a setback for public health and a win for the tobacco industry.

Two education initiatives – one requiring schools to teach an hour of reading, writing and maths each day, and another banning mobile phone use – reflect a sentiment among some voters that schools have strayed from their primary mission.

Others plans around ethnicity, such as disbanding the Māori Health Authority, have been portrayed by Mr Luxon’s government as measures to treat all citizens equally, but have been attacked by critics as being racist against Indigenous people.