A Big Hole


Judith Collins heaved a huge sigh of relief this week as Shane Jones, quitting politics in the most political way imaginable, hogged the headlines.

On TV3, Patrick Gower broke the news: ‘Shane Jones to leave Labour, set to work with Murray McCully’. For a moment, like a lot things to do with Shane, I thought it was a joke. But no. As Paddy breathlessly reported, “Shane Jones is quitting Parliament and the Labour Party, and there is a job already lined up for him – a job offer from the National Government. Nothing is signed and sealed, but the job is as ‘Pacific Economic Ambassador’ – a position created by Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully. Prime Minister John Key is also aware of the job offer’.

On some level, it reeked of dastardly, political skulduggery. In the NZ Herald, Claire Trevett awarded ‘the Nobel Prize for rat cunning in neutralising an enemy force’  to  Foreign Minister Murray McCully. ‘The Prince of Darkness is back in business’ Gower exclaimed. ‘That master of the dark arts of politics Murray McCully has pulled an almighty swifty on Labour with a dodgy deal to get Shane Jones out of Parliament and working for National. In layman’s terms “McCully-avelli”, as I call him, has kicked David Cunliffe right between the legs where it hurts. It is rat-cunning backroom politics and McCully and John Key would have been high-fiving when they landed Jones. Yet this “Pacific Economic Ambassador” role McCully has created for Jones needs to be called for what it is – dodgy as. It is a good job and one Jones could not resist – McCully made him an offer he knew Jones couldn’t refuse. But make no mistake – it is a complete and utter jack-up done primarily to hurt Labour.’

But all is fair in love and politics. The dodginess was not so much in the offer than the acceptance. If you can take out the opposition with cushy job offers, why wouldn’t you? It’s nothing less than we have come to expect from National. Spot the high profile malcontent. Tell him what he wants to hear. Offer him a job. Good money. Bob’s your uncle. Or in this case, Shane.

Shane Jones. In the Herald on Sunday, Jonathan Milne called him ‘a flawed man’ and the first to admit it : ‘A booze-drinking, porn-viewing, wife-cheating, frustrated Kiwi bloke. But he also has a devil-may-care candour that will be missed from politics. And when this Kiwi bloke walked away from Labour this week, he may have taken thousands more voters just like him.’  On Stuff, Vernon Small said ‘ If things could get any worse than the cluster failure around Shane Jones’ sudden departure to work for a government he was supposed to want out of office, it is hard to see what they could be…Jones pulled the pin, walked out of the caucus room and tossed the grenade over his shoulder’.’ The Herald’s John Armstrong felt Jones’ resignation couldn’t have come at a worse time. His ‘shock decision to quit as a Labour MP will lead voters to draw one conclusion and one conclusion only: that he thinks Labour cannot win the September general election. His departure is close to an unmitigated disaster for Labour’.

Really? For sure, twenty weeks from an election, disunity is not a good look. The spotlight should be on the failings of the Government and what the Left plans to do about them and Jones’  headline-grabbing decision doesn’t help. Having said that, it’s hard to disagree with Stuff’s editorial: ‘While there will undoubtedly be glee in National circles at having caused such disarray within Labour, Jones’s virtues should not be exaggerated. For all his high education (like David Cunliffe, he is a product of the distinguished Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University) and undoubted business expertise (he was chairman of Sealord), his political career was less than stellar. He caused deep embarrassment to the Labour Party with his grubby misuse of a ministerial credit card and twice was stood down from office. He was cleared of any misconduct over an immigration matter, but the report of an inquiry into it did not give much confidence in his diligence in handling his portfolio. His facility with two languages was enviable but at times the suspicion arose that it simply gave him the opportunity to spout nonsense in both of them. He was once spoken of as a future prime minister, but in the end, for all his capacity at raising a rhetorical fuss, his political achievements were not great’.

His political liabilities however were numerous and, in his recent attacks on the Greens, ever more so. As Metiria Turei was quoted in the Herald, “I don’t think that Shane has a grip on his emotions and I think that he lets fly regardless of whether it’s sensible or not.” The difficulty for Jones was that, even under a best-case scenario, he would end up serving in a Government with the Greens and under Russel Norman. It was not a prospect to which he was prepared to devote his time and talent. As far as he was concerned, he was bigger than that and better than that and, typically, Shane was not backward in coming forward to tell everyone about it.

He did the political talk shows over the weekend. If he was trying to frame his actions in terms of political conscience, many viewers were unconvinced.  ‘Judas’ and ‘Narcissist’ were two themes commonly expressed by those texting in. They felt Jones was bigger than that and better than that. Turns out he wasn’t. When the going got tough, Shane got going.

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In the NZ Herald, Claire Trevett pondered how Labour, ‘struggling to prove it can still connect with middle New Zealand’  would keep up without Jones. She quotes deputy leader David Parker: ‘just because Jones has gone, what he stood for had not. He said fighting against inequality and on behalf of workers had been part of Labour’s ethos for almost 100 years. It had managed to express them before Jones and would manage to do so after Jones’. No one is indispensable. No messenger, however ‘colourful’ is bigger than the message.

Of the man himself, Trevett writes an obituary of sorts. ‘He was anointed by the media to begin with, crucified by the media when he stuffed up, and then built up again. Most politicians look forward to getting away from that level of scrutiny but it is no real surprise that Jones says the sudden absence of it is the thing he is most worried about adjusting to. “Anyone who has been out there in public and seeks affirmation of their political ideas and personal attributes, once the curtain comes down; I have to tell the truth. One of the issues I had to ask myself was can I make that transition and not be miserable?” He still doesn’t seem certain he can. But he shrugs and says attention has already turned to his successor and good friend, Kelvin Davis. “I’m not even gone yet and Kelvin’s bought a new suit, is polishing his shoes and saying ‘I am now the dog and Shane is the tree’.” In his own mind, a mighty Totara no doubt.

Trevett concludes Jones leaves a big hole. A-hole is probably closer to the mark.




  1. For all the lauding of Shane Jones in the media this last week, two
    things stand out for me.

    He said he’s pro-industry, pro-development, anti-green because they
    oppose mining and development.

    Previously he had been talking up forestry as a major economic
    development for the north BUT he never took up the cause raised by Helen Kelly and CTU about the many unnecessary deaths in the forestry
    industry, NOR the many very nasty trucking accidents on the highways
    caused by logging trucks.

    And as to his pro-mining stance – in the north, very many of the local
    Maori are opposed to mining – right from the Hokianga down to Ngati Hau and Ngati Wai further south. He knew that. He ignored them.
    He said it was just the Greens who were anti-mining, but it is also his
    own people who are very much opposed to mining, and destruction of the environment.

    And many Northern Maori have been concerned about the state of their rivers and streams from the contamination of dairying and the adverse effect this has had on their native fishery.

    Shane Jones was out of touch. In the last century. Its not just the
    Green Party who have concerns about out-of-control development and its effect on the environment. Its his own people. Jones did not listen when others talked about climate change, sustainability, and how to get real jobs with the necessary protections for both people and environment built into them.

  2. Never truer words, the worst part of this farce is the man accepting this gift of graft from National via the taxpayers pockets.

    Next time some MFAT worker wonders why there is not enough resources they need to do their job properly, (and they will), they need not look any further than Shane Jones paid holiday to the islands for the answer.

    What a slimy government we have.

  3. …undoubted business expertise (he was chairman of Sealord) …

    The company that went from being NZ’s largest fishing company to its second largest? The best days of that company were prior to the ‘Sealord Deal’.

  4. So agree Jenny. I look in amazement at what the middle class MSM say about him and think about the Maori and working class I know who believe in the beauty of Ranginui and Papatuanuku and undertake their kaitiakitanga responsibilities with much heart. And then I wonder, what are the MSM are basing their opinions on? I’ve found that generally, people are enamoured by those who talk themselves up, become seduced but their rhetoric and oratory and believe the word of the gospel spouts from their mouths. He also must know how to play those networks.
    I think the world has changed and many New Zealanders of a certain age are nostalgic for a better time, a time when they enjoyed running free, swimming in rivers that never made them sick, gathering kai moana, hunting. These memories have more of an influence on what I value now. Jone’s push for increased employment opportunities needed to be tempered by ‘quality of life’ necessities. He failed to understand that, possibly because his ego is bigger than the environment that is being destroyed by the need for economic ‘advancement’. Anyhow I’m sick of thinking, hearing from and talking about him. But I do hope he takes a more tempered approach to his role in the Pacific. Everyone thinks he should be right for this role. But is his approach to the Pacific going to be similar to the approach he took while a MP? And as a non Pacific person, should he even be going there. What actually does this role entail or does he make it up on the spot, as is the usual requirement for made up jobs. Anyhow good luck Shane Jones and I hope you look after our Pacific cousins.

  5. The National Party Dirty Tricks Brigade is in full swing now. Nearly every time National has won an election it was due to the Dirty Tricks Brigade and their own Goebbels department. The only exception was in 1990 when Labour and National were peddling the same policies and the dirty tricks brigade was unnecessary.

  6. Yes, I agree with a lot that Simon has written here, but why this continued attention to this matter. We know now where Shane Jones’ loyalties ultimately lie. They lie with himself and his personal business or other opportunities, safeguarding his personal future and income. If it is supposed to be a “disaster” for Labour, then I ask, why, and what does Labour stand for?

    If Labour as a party, and members in caucus, and candidates standing for this election (for Labour), have any principles, they should now shrug this off, move on, and present policy, ideas, clear positions to represent the average working and also disadvantaged New Zealander, and be counted in the fight to get this government thrown out of office.

    Put the damned Jones resignation behind you, do not give that man any more attention, shun him, do not give him more credit, as he is NOT one of us, NOT representing our concerns and interests, he is merely one for HIMSELF and CAUSE, none else.

    Simon will be well advised to write about something more important and relevant, but I forgive him, we are all inundated and influenced by a sensation and headline hunting commercially driven media, that ignore what matters, but put all focus on personalities and emotive events, and thus distract us all at times.

    I am sick of hearing the name Shane Jones, I ask Shane Who, and I want nothing more written about this self serving, attention seeking, self indulging man, who is NOT one who has New Zealand’s future at heart!

  7. Your last line Simon was brilliant, gave me a good laugh.
    @Jenny yes I agree, I fear for the damage he will reap in his new position. Mine it, drill it, frack it, we need smarter solutions or else environmental damage will be our only legacy. The next generation deserves better than that!

    The national government has blood on its hands and is complicit in a legacy of human rights and environmental disasters. There was so much more to the poignant story of Mr Pip, which had recently been made into a movie.
    After delving into this story a little more I was recently horrified to discover this:

    Rio Tinto was the major shareholder in Bougainville Copper Ltd. That was the giant copper mine set up on the island of Bougainville, which was accused by the island’s inhabitants of being responsible for poisoning the entire length of the Jaba River, and causing birth defects, as well as the extinction of the flying fox on the island. As for profits, Bougainvilleans received only 0.5% – 1.25% share of the total profit. The violent conflict that arose from this situation caused the death of approximately 10,000 people!

    And let’s not forget, the Tronox disaster. Anadarko who not only were involved with the Gulf of Mexico disaster but who also had to recently settle a pollution clean-up case for 5.5 billion. The settlement was to resolve a legal battle over Tronox Inc, a spinoff of Kerr-McGee Corporation, a company Anadarko acquired in 2006.

    This company had a long legacy of environmental contamination: polluting Lake Mead in Nevada with rocket fuel, leaving behind radioactive waste piles throughout the territory of the Navajo Nation and dumping carcinogenic creosote in communities throughout the East, Midwest and South at its wood-treating facilities.

    Then there is Rimbunan Hijau. A Malaysian-based logging company, which was caught by the country’s intelligence agency using bribes to secure leases and employing a terror campaign against local people. Rimbunan Hijau now has control of about 1.6 million hectares of Papua New Guinea’s rainforests between the Western Province Border and Central Province. They are the parent company of Ernslaw One, which is the third largest forest owner in New Zealand, ranking behind Carter Holt Harvey and Kaingaroa Timberlands. It now has about 84,000 hectares of forests (of which it has only planted 26,000 ha itself, the rest having being acquired from the original owners).

    Some of these companies, like Rio Tinto have received our tax payer dollars. The national party has no ethical concerns about the companies that operate here, which says to me that ethics have no place in modern business practise. That is why there is no governmental push for sustainable, ethical businesses just as long they receive their royalties. We need governments to be above corruption not implicit in it!

  8. I would like to know who else was considered for the position of Pacific Economic Ambassador. It sounds like a pretty important role. Is there a process for these kinds of appointments or can ministers pull budgets out of their backsides to fund their political adventures. Should it have been advertised and a transparent selection process have occurred?

    As for Jones:

    A rat joining a stinking ship.

    • It is an ambassador level position and therefore is able to be filled at the discretion of the Minister. Murray McCully is no fool.

      • And I suspect you are the “ambassador” for the Right Hounerable John Key, PM, here on this blog, representing his positon as a full time kind of rolling, trolling “ambassador”, right? Who pays you, dear Gosman?

  9. I believe it’s great that Jones has shown his true colours pre-election. There goes the disunity from the Labour Party.

    He either left because National govt offered him a good job – to get rid of him from Labour.

    Or he left because he was just pretending to be a Labour man.

    Or National have yet again, in my opinion, been up to more skulduggery.

    National appear to be so corrupt. Do they really think that NZers are going to let them get away with their continued ignorance of the reality of the poor state of affairs they have put most of us in.

    Nats will get the so-called ‘top10%’ votes, but how will the other 90% vote. Please don’t stay at home 90%.

    Opinion and belief.

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