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Usman Khawaja sets off accidental political storm in NZ

27th February, 2024
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27th February, 2024
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Australian cricket star Usman Khawaja has sparked an unlikely diplomatic incident after a function at the New Zealand Prime Mister’s residence.

On Tuesday, the NZ PM Christopher Luxon denied a claim Khawaja who told reporters that the PM had told him the residence ‘Premier House” was “condemned”.

Luxon and NZ Sport Minister Chris Bishop hosted the Australian and New Zealand cricket teams at the property in Wellington on Monday night.

Luxon spoke to the players for an hour and later Khawaja said “the Prime Minister said he couldn’t live in his place.

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

“I said ‘what?!’ You’re the Prime Minister, fix it!’

“He was like ‘oh, that costs money’. I’m like, ‘surely there’s some money in the New Zealand system!”

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Luxon disputed Khawaja’s version of their conversation.

Australian cricket player Usman Khawaja speaks to the media during the 2023/24 NRMA Insurance Test Series Launch at Optus Stadium on December 11, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images for Cricket Australia)

Australian cricket player Usman Khawaja. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images for Cricket Australia)

“No, it hasn’t been [condemned]. That’s not the language I have used or I was reported as using,” Luxon said.

“I was asked do I live in Premier House, and the answer is ‘no, I don’t’. As you know, Premier House has long-standing maintenance issues. A report was given to the former prime minister. That same report has been passed on to me and the Government will consider what options we have available to remedy all the maintenance issues that are there. Until then, I stay in my apartment.

“It’s important because the report that [former PM] Chris Hipkins got and he passed onto me, it obviously needs investment. How we can manage that in the times we’ve got and the cost of living crisis is difficult.

“At the moment there are long-standing maintenance issues with the apartment there and the house in general.”

The prime minister’s living arranments have been of great interest in NZ.

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He owns seven residences without mortgages and it was reported he is living in one of them while claiming an allowance.

He is now eligible for a $52,000 handout if he does not live at Premier House.

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