Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges defended his 2019 trip to China when speaking to Peter Williams on Monday morning.
During an interview with the National Party Leader covering a range of issues from gun legislation, police activity, and policy positions for the upcoming elections this year host Peter Williams asks about the allegations that Chinese Communist Party affiliated National MP Jian Yang organised the trips.
Simon defends his trip saying, “It is important that the leader of the opposition, who is auditioning to be Prime Minister take close interest in Foreign Affairs and actually does some travel.”
"I try not to do too much [travel] because I'm resolutely focused on you what matters here in New Zealand."
Simon insists that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “was involved from start to finish” saying, “they attended every single meeting I had.”
But Peter pushes back with reports that the Ministry was not wholly involved with the trip, which Simon claims was necessary to organise higher level meetings with officials.
"What I have found quite bluntly and frankly is that, left entirely to the ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for me as leader of the opposition, I get third rate meetings."
Bridges makes an example of his trip to India wherein he met with several Ministers which would not have been possible if he relied on the Ministry alone.
Bridges then goes on to defend his meeting with Minister for State Security Guo Shengkun, who has been described as “head of the Secret Police” in China.
"This guy is China's Justice Minister, we didn't choose him but he is right at the top of the Chinese Government."
Simon makes the case that if he were to be Prime Minister he would need to have meetings with officials saying, “should the Prime Minister of New Zealand, which I hope to be at the end of this year, not meet with these people? Of course we should.”
"The biggest issue in the world today is actually the China/US dispute what some call the decoupling and the problems with that."
"We need to understand it and make sure we're positioning New Zealand at and that's why we went."
Williams ends his grilling of the National Leader’s China trip asking if Bridges had any reservations or concerns over Jian Yang's relationship with the Chinese Communist Party?
"Not at all, the stories have been misleading as I say it was right we went and MFAT was entirely involved."
You can listen to the questioning above.