Trevett on MPs and summer

December 26th, 2013 at 11:33 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett writes:

After a year of travels, both domestic and international, Mana leader Hone Harawira also decided to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors, the great explorers, and set up an expedition of his own: the goal being to find out where his office in Parliament actually is.


Labour MP Shane Jones will finally give up his favourite pastime of riling up those in his own party by shredding the internal organs of the Green Party and singing paeans to mining, casinos and big business. He will instead be elected as leader of the political party that is his true turangawaewae: Act.

Shane would be an excellent Leader of ACT!

Labour attacking public servants

December 6th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour has accused one of New Zealand’s top public servants of behaving like an “emperor” and warned he may struggle to gain a Labour government’s confidence.

Labour forestry spokesman Shane Jones questioned the decision of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to bring more than 30 officials to yesterday’s appearance before the commerce select committee.

The number of officials is a reflection of the huge number of areas MBIE has. If there is a question on immigration, then the energy person can’t really answer it.

Jones said the large team brought to the committee “hinted at the CEO’s vanity” and said Smol had a “lot of work to do” to create confidence from Labour MPs when they next took power.

“If that doesn’t change, by this time next year, then the Kaiser will learn it’s a different world,” he said.

So Jones is saying he may sack the CEO, and compares him to a German dictator. Charming.

Wood prices

November 27th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour’s outspoken economic development spokesman Shane Jones has lashed out at “arrogant” foreign owners of New Zealand’s forests, saying their pursuit of the highest possible profits comes at the expense of local workers, communities and the wood processing industry.

Jones’ comments come as he and industry figures ring alarm bells that local processors are being priced out of the log market as skyrocketing Chinese demand drives prices higher.

So the global price of wood is increasing. I’m not sure this is a bad thing for a country that produces wood.

Jones seems to be saying that owners of NZ forests should refuse to take the highest price for their wood, and should sell locally for a cheaper price.

I wonder if this logic extends to all industries? Should all companies be told they are not allowed to accept a high foreign price for their products until they have sold all they can domestically?

“These foreign-owned companies rely on ratepayers to upgrade roads so they can move their logs to the ports, they rely on New Zealand’s social insurance when workers in the forests are killed.

Neither of these statements are true. When logs are moved on roads, they pay for the costs of maintaining and upgrading roads through road user charges. They pay up to $368 per 1000 kms.

Forest companies also pay ACC. Their levy rate is $6.35 per $100 of wages. This is set to cover the costs of accidents and deaths in that industry.

“The foreign owners’ agenda has eclipsed the rights and interests of the New Zealand taxpayer and workforce, this is not a sustainable forest policy.”

Jones is good about complaining, but does he have a solution? Is he saying Labour will pass a law to ban companies from selling goods overseas if they can be sold cheaper in New Zealand?

Hancock did not return the Herald’s calls but Forest Owners Association president Paul Nicholls said owners were looking for the best return on their investment.

“Most forest owners sell somewhere between half and two thirds of their product to domestic mills but there’s always competition for those logs from overseas buyers, so it does come down to a matter of economics, which markets the domestic mills are selling into and what they can afford to pay for logs.”

The global price of wood is high and rising. I don’t see you can do much about that.


Labour’s drilling split

November 27th, 2013 at 5:35 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The standoff over deep sea drilling off the Raglan coast is threatening a split in Labour.

Labour MP Shane Jones has backed oil drilling giant Anadarko in a move which puts him at odds with other members of the caucus, including environment spokeswoman Moana Mackey who today called for a slow down in the mineral exploration programme. …

Speaking on Maori TV’s Te Kaea tonight, Jones was outspoken about attempts to stop Anadarko from deep sea drilling and said the protesters should remember that the company had a statutory right to be there.

“Protesters need to bear in mind we are buying oil out of the Gulf of Mexico and other far-flung places when we should be focusing on making an industry in our own country.”

Anadarko was spending a million dollars a day on its programme and that was good for New Zealand, Jones said.

Jones is Labour’s spokesperson on economic development and is ranked No 5, on their front bench. I hope he speaks for Labour, but does he?

But Mackey appeared to back the protesters and blamed the Government for Greenpeace’s announcement that it intends to challenge the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision to allow Anadarko to carry out deep sea drilling off the Raglan coast .

She said the regulatory environment under which Anadarko was permitted to drill was “deliberately permissive” and the process had been a shambles.

She also accused the Government of being desperate to expedite deep sea oil and gas exploration because it had no plan B for jobs – which also puts her at odds with Jones, who believes mining is a potential boon for jobs.

Mackey is ranked No 18 and is the Environment Spokesperson. Will the views of No 18 trump the views of No 5?

David Shearer is the Energy Spokesperson. What are his views? Maybe Labour can have three different policies on this issue, rather than just two!

Labour leader David Cunliffe was unavailable for comment.

I bet he was.

Jones call for fewer building permits

November 18th, 2013 at 6:06 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former minister of building and housing Shane Jones wants to simplify renovation compliance measures and cut costs.

Jones, Labour’s building and construction spokesman, said much could be done to improve the system.

“Where a builder is a registered, certified builder, like a plumber or sparkie, where they are working on odd jobs or renovations that don’t require a great deal of attention from compliance because it’s low risk, you shouldn’t need to get a building permit, just like you don’t need to get a building permit for a plumber or sparkie to fix your place.

“So if the remedial job has a level of risk not in orbit, why tie up building inspectors where a competent builder – who can be sued because he’s registered – can just get on and do it.”

Once again I tend to agree with Jones. But does his caucus? Will this idea become Labour policy?

Someone should keep a running tally of all the stuff Jones announces as Labour spokesperson and see if any of it actually ends up backed by his caucus.

Is Jones speaking for Labour?

November 12th, 2013 at 7:17 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

The seafood industry is calling for a curb on councils’ powers to control fishing in the name of marine biodiversity protection, saying they are threatening their business and growth prospects.

The issue has surfaced after the Marlborough District Council followed up a 2011 study into ecologically significant marine sites in its region with moves to require consents to dredge or bottom-trawl in some areas.

The industry fears it will set a precedent other councils will follow, giving them the power to limit fishing using the Resource Management Act (RMA).

Labour economic development spokesman Shane Jones is backing the industry and calling for the law to be clarified to stop councils using a “side wind” to achieve a ban on commercial fishing.

I don’t disagree with Jones, but is he speaking for Labour on this issue? Does Labour support a law change to remove this power from local Councils? Or is this another case of “Yeah, Nah” where one MP says one thing, and another says something different?

Jones and Tamaki Makarau

November 8th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

There are signs some MPs are looking at an exit in the next term by standing as list-only candidates. That has become a stepping stone to retirement, allowing an MP to leave during the term without the resultant hassle and cost of a by-election.

Annette King is understood to be one of those, opening up her very safe Labour Rongotai seat. One obvious replacement in Rongotai is Andrew Little, at present a list MP. But another possibility is Helen Kelly, the head of the Council of Trade Unions, who has been rather coy about her intentions in 2014. A dead-cert ticket to Parliament will be hard to resist.

Labour badly needs more professional unionists in Parliament, as they are appallingy under-represented.

As well as King, Shane Jones opted against running in Tamaki Makaurau again. That is possibly because of the likelihood he would actually win it in 2014 given Pita Sharples’ retirement and Jones’ own rising star. Sticking to the list gives him the flexibility to leave rather than sit through another term in Opposition.

I hadn’t seen this reported before. This is good news for the Maori Party who are more likely to retain it if Jones is not standing.

Jones supports drilling and mining for Tainui

October 23rd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour economic development and Maori affairs spokesman Shane Jones, has applauded moves by Waikato-Tainui to explore the benefits of mining for oil and minerals.

The tribe is holding an “information sharing” hui today at Hopuhopu, and has invited members of the petroleum industry, government ministries, Waikato Regional Council and the Maori Land Court to teach them more about the sector.

Mr Jones reckoned the tribe’s investigations could prove a canny development.

“There is not an iwi in the country that does not want to see industry and jobs but we can’t be too picky or finicky as to where we find these jobs,” he said.

The issue of mining and oil exploration was shrouded with “emotionalism” but he said the decision for Maori should be made on sound science and fact.

“More often than not the factual information is hard to uncover because it is under layers of polemic.”

He said New Zealand’s environmental management framework was robust and would answer any environmental questions, and he called for the energy sector to work more closely with Maori.

It’s good to see Shane Jones say this, and he believes it.

But I don’t think we should assume Jones speaks for Labour on this issue. Their environmental and energy spokespersons go around condemning mining and drilling whenever they can.  It’s the old trick of different messages for different people.

Jones lashes Curran

September 11th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

One News reported:

MP Shane Jones has opened fire on one of his caucus colleagues as the Labour leadership roadshow is about to wrap up in Christchurch.

Mr Jones, one of three contenders for the leadership, has told ONE News that in a Labour Party he leads, Dunedin South Labour MP Clare Curran would be so far on the outer she would be sitting with independent MP Brendan Horan.

That’s a massively harsh statement to make in public, and it gives you some idea how toxic some relationships are within the Labour caucus.

“Either the moon in Dunedin was in the wrong phase or she’s casting around for a new job,” he told ONE News.

They had been doing a fairly good of pretending to be civil for the first week, but it is all unwinding now.

“What happens in David Cunliffe’s camp or Grant Robertson’s camp ought not to be fed via the Twitter, then exponentially spread up and down New Zealand, only to confirm that the Labour caucus is unfit to govern,” Mr Jones said.

So Shane thinks Labour is unfit to govern! Oh the next question time will be fun!

But the quotes are even more damning in this Stuff article about why Cunliffe stood down Jenny Michie:

“I’ve looked closely at that issue, I’ve made a decision to stand a person down from my campaign team just because I think maintaining the appropriate perceptions that we are a united party and a united caucus is really important,” he said.

Can you believe this. Cunliffe has said that it is only a perception that Labour is united, and that his actions are just about maintaining that perception!

The actual comments Michie made were, in my view, not in any way inappropriate. The question and answer was:

Rachel Okay, Grant Robertson Jennie says that he wants to be judged on his ability, not his sexuality. How do you think the socially conservatives might view Grant Robertson you know in the year 2013?

Jennie That’s right, I think it’s not a big a deal as it used to be. You know we now have gay marriage, and it actually went through without that much of a fuss, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Having said that I think we’d be naïve to imagine that there would be no resistance to a gay Prime Minister at this point. I think some people might have a problem with it, but I certainly wouldn’t.

Michie was asked a direct question. She did not bring the issue up. She was sacked for just telling the obvious truth – that of course some people would have a problem with a gay PM. Should she have lied and said that no-one would? She made clear she didn’t think it would be a big deal, but while same sex marriage passed with strong support, it did not have anywhere near unanimous support, and you’d have no credibility as a commentator if you denied that some people may have an issue.

Edwards on Jones

September 9th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs:

Shane Jones is one of only two people I have ever hung up on. Trevor Mallard is the other. I don’t take well to being bullied or abused.

Now that’s a good opening line!

I do Mallard an injustice by mentioning him in the same context as Jones. I have considerable respect for Trevor and nothing but contempt for Jones.

If I ever had doubts that such contempt was deserved, they would have vanished over the past couple of weeks in the face of his numerous appearances on television. This is not a man the Labour Party can ever afford to have as its Leader. This is not a man the country can ever afford to have as its Prime Minister. He would almost certainly bring shame to both offices.

Little chance Shane will be Leader or PM. But he could well end up Deputy if that is the price of his support for second preferences.

Here’s Jones on his Dalmatian forefathers: ‘I tell you what, a lot of them were fairly lusty individuals, because they didn’t always marry those Maori wahines they applied their biological gum-spears to.’ (Penis reference. Espiner laughs.)

Jones again, following his call to David Cunliffe: ‘What the hell is a soft piece. Doing things in a soft fashion has never really been a failing of mine’ (Penis reference presumably boasting his ability to sustain an erection. Espiner finds this very funny.)

And here’s Jones, in a speech referring to what he intended to do to John Key:  ‘I’m going to tie a bungy cord around a sensitive spot and then I’m going to get those callipers and cut them, and then the mercenary of capitalism can suffer what he deserves – a dead cat bounce.” (Reference to castrating John Key)

And Jones on Labour’s proposed ‘man ban’: ‘… the overwhelming response [in his electorate] is the public doesn’t want the country run by geldings.’ (Reference to women as castrated male horses.)

Brian is right to point out that Shane does seem rather obsessed with certain appendages.

He definitely has mass appeal, but he is also a bit of a walking time bomb.

Labour candidates competing for anti-Key statements

September 7th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

First Grant Robertson borrows from Russel Norman:

John Key, Robert Muldoon, Kim Dotcom?

I am in the middle of a leadership contest but what I do know is that the first two of those people have such similarities; it would be very hard to choose between them.

So Grant also thinks John Key is like Sir Robert Muldoon. I’mm not sure if he is demented or just playing to the audience.

But Shane Jones goes one better:

Labour leadership hopeful Shane Jones says he wants to string up Prime Minister John Key with a bungy cord around a “sensitive spot.” …

“I’m going to tie a bungy cord around a sensitive spot and then I’m going to get those callipers and cut them and then the mercenary of capitalism can suffer what he deserves – a dead cat bounce.”

Imagine if say John Key had spoken about Helen Clark like that. He would have been denounced by every newspaper and media outlet in New Zealand.

Speaking from the Marshall Islands this morning, Key said Jones’ intentions towards him “sounds painful”.

“If they want to spend their time taking about parts of my anatomy or my personality they are free to do so. I don’t think it will win them a lot of votes,” he added.

Key is pretty much the opposite of Muldoon when it comes to dealing with with personal attacks.


A win for Robertson

August 31st, 2013 at 5:03 pm by David Farrar

Just got back from Levin where they had the first of 12 meetings for Labour members and affiliates to hear the leadership contenders and ask questions.

Media were invited to the speeches part, hence why I went along. They initially said I could not report on it, as they get to decide who is and is not media. But then a compromise was done where I could report on it from just outside the building. I was more than happy with the compromise, as it was in fact nicer in the sun than in a crowded room.

Labour had around 300 people there, which is pretty impressive for a meeting in Levin. They’ll be pretty happy with that.

There are stories up on NZ Herald and Stuff on the speeches.

Shane Jones was first up. He used a couple of his previous lines, including taking on the $50 million gorilla which went down well. The key thrust of his speech was that he is the only candidate who can reclaim or recover the territory Labour used to have, which National now has. He spoke on the need for more regional development and said that does involve mining and drilling (not those exact words though). Called himself the embodiment of both old and new NZ, and related his mixed heritage.

He finished with saying that the real enemy was apathy (I thought it was the gorilla!), and had a classic line about how he wants Labour to get over 40% so that it doesn’t need a Green urologist to lift them up!

A good speech from Shane, which played to his strengths. I would be surprised if he got a lot of votes though. A reasonable level of applause at times, and at the end.

Second up was David Cunliffe. He started a bit subdued, but this may have been deliberate to avoid going over the top like at his campaign launch.  He spent most of the first half attacking the Government and saying that for 250,000 kids in poverty the Kiwi Dream is a nightmare. Lots of applause. He said the current kids may be the first generation to end up worse off than their parents and said Labour is the best hope for restoring the dreams.

He also borrowed from Helen, and called the Key Government corrosive. Then he showed he had done his homework by quoting regional unemployment stats and finally pledged to abolish the Kapiti Expressway if elected PM (not quite sure how that will help create local jobs!).

He also played to his strength by saying Labour managed economy well when last in Govt, and would do so again with him. said National focuses too much on welfare fraud and not enough on tax evasion, which was very popular. Tried to deal with the JAFA issue by saying he was born in the Waikato. He concluded by saying the red tide is rising and will take NZ forward. I almost expected them to start singing the international socialist song!

Overall a very good speech, that went down very well with the members there. One member tweeted that while he liked the speech, Cunliffe mainly repeated Labour policy and didn’t make the case for why he, not the others, should be leader.

Finally they/we heard from Grant Robertson. He started low key but got people warmed up with a joke about how John Key had said the leadership contest is a reality TV show. he pointed out reality TV shows are popular and that John Key has his own show, called You Are The Weakest Link – which of course they loved.

Grant obviously decided there is no way he was going to let Cunliffe be seen as the candidate of the left, so he pledged in quick order full employment, a living wage for all and a 50% female quota for caucus. They cheered and cheered.

The living wage commitment was specific – he will give a date by which every state agency must pay every employee at least a living wage (over $18 an hour) and also every contracted company to them must do the same. This is basically a 40% pay increase for every cleaner. By no coincidence, the room was full of Service and Food Worker members, many of whom are no doubt cleaners.

Grant also pledged to repeal National’s employment law changes, which again went down well. Then he had another line on how Steven Joyce thinks economic development is a night out at Sky City.

Grant’s use of humour to attack Key and Joyce is, for my money, an effective strategy. Just calling them evil uncaring people won’t convince anyone but the base. Humour used effectively though can undermine.

Then at the end Grant spoke on the need to win the next election at all costs, and how Labour needs to be unified to do that, and he is the person who can lead and unify the party.

I thought at the end of it, that Grant clearly was best on the day. Cunliffe was very good, but Robertson excelled. he got the mix of policy, rhetoric, humour and “why me” just right. Cunliffe did a great attack speech, but didn’t make the case so effectively for why it should be him.

The danger for Robertson is that if Cunliffe clearly outclassed him at the first debate, or two, then the uncommitted MPs and unions would swing behind Cunliffe as the likely victor. I think he did more than enough to keep the contest very finely balanced.

After the speeches, they went into committee for the Q+A. Amusingly they kept the doors open so one could hear everything said outside if you tried to listen to it (I didn’t).

Chatted to a few people afterwards, and the consensus seemed to be that Robertson performed the best. However 11 more meetings to go.

What really struck me was how far left Grant was prepared to go to head off Cunliffe. This is in fact quite good for National. If Grant wins, he is on record at pledging to effectively increase the minimum wage to over $18, and to have a gender quota for caucus, plus full employment. I love how he pledges 40% pay increases plus full employment! What will be interesting is if Cunliffe tries to match these pledges. He did unilaterally announce the scrapping of the Kapiti Expressway so by the end of their campaign, I hate to think what they will be promising – all motorways closed down, rail for all, jobs for all, and $29 an hour minimum wage!

Jones standing also

August 25th, 2013 at 7:28 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner has tweeted that Shane Jones will also stand for the Labour Party leadership. Robertson declared today and inevitable Cunliffe will declare, so it looks to be a three horse race.

I suspect Jones is not in it to win, but to gain enough support that the other candidates need his support to win, and to give him maybe Deputy or Finance.

Certainly livens the race up, and will be good to have a more economically moderate candidate in the mix.

Sonny Tau has put out a personal statement in support of Shane Jones:

With the Labour leadership contest now underway, many Māori have thrown their support behind Shane Jones, proud son of Ngāpuhi, who has what it takes to lead Labour, and is the sharpest knife in party’s drawer.

Shane has a formidable intellect, great political instincts and is a brilliant orator in both Te Reo Māori and English. No one can touch Shane – not even John Key or any other politician – when he is in full-flight addressing Parliament.

Shane brings critical constituencies that Labour needs if it is to be in a position to form a Government.

He brings the Māori vote, which Labour knows it can no longer take for granted. Listening to Māori political pundits over the past few days, all have said it is imperative for Māoridom that Shane either leads Labour or is appointed deputy.

No other Labour MP has the understanding, authority or mana to drive through the Māori agenda as Shane can.

Another important constituency he brings is the business world. Shane has chaired a major fishing company and has acquired business acumen within the corporate world. There are precious few within Labour ranks who have this string to their bow. …

I urge Māori to be in touch with their Labour associates over the following days, to express their support for Shane Jones. I will be doing this myself.

That reinforces my belief that Shane is really standing for Deputy.

If Cunliffe beats Robertson, he could well make Jones Deputy. Where does that leave Grant? He can’t be Finance Spokesperson.

If Grant wins, he needs someone from Auckland as his Deputy. Either Cunliffe or possibly Jacinda. Does Jones get Finance?

The loser in all this may be David Parker. Hard to see him holding Finance regardless of who wins.


So what is Labour’s policy on oil and drilling?

July 22nd, 2013 at 1:24 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Controversial Labour Party bigwig Shane Jones has moved to position the party well clear of the Greens and their “anti-development” message.

In Taranaki for a two-day visit with party justice spokesman list MP Andrew Little, the regional development spokesman spent much of the first day pow-wowing with oil and gas industry players.

“I am keen to defang these misapprehensions that are abounding that somehow industry has disappeared from our purview.

“Nothing could be further from the truth and if my visit provides the opportunity to reinforce the centrality of jobs, the importance of industry and the need for a future Labour-led government to assuage whatever anxieties might be there in the minds of employers or future investors then I am up for the task,” he said.

Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth, Mr Jones said, and businesses and enterprises enabling it would get full government support.

Shane may say this, and believe this, bus his caucus doesn’t. They’ve voted with the Greens on pretty much every law around drilling and off-shore oil.

They send Shane into Taranaki to say Labour supports off-shore drilling, and Moana Mackey into Gisborne to say they’re against it.

UPDATE: Further proof of Labour saying one thing in Taranaki and another thing elsewhere. Last year Grant Robertson was campaigning against oil prospecting.

Dom Post on Jones inquiry

March 13th, 2013 at 6:30 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Given the paucity of talent within Labour’s ranks and the divisions within the party, Mr Shearer’s desire to restore a supporter to the front bench is understandable.

The public, however, may well have different priorities when it comes time to assess Labour’s fitness to operate the levers of government.

Ms Provost’s investigation found no evidence of corruption, but it did find ample evidence of poor judgment on the part of the former associate minister of immigration.

A harsh summary is not corrupt, just incompetent.

She found Mr Jones acted hastily before he was in possession of all the relevant information, did not consult either police or the Immigration Service despite knowing both were investigating Mr Liu, and failed to document the reasons for his decision.

Immigration and citizenship cases are fraught with danger for ministers because the final say on cases rests with them and because those making representations on behalf of applicants are often their parliamentary colleagues.

It is easy for the perception to develop that it is not what applicants offer New Zealand that is important, but who they know.

Especially when the applicant boasts to the Department that he is mates with MPs, insists on a quick decision despite officials telling him they will recommend no.

In those circumstances the best protection for ministerial reputations and New Zealand’s reputation as a country free of corruption is for the decision-making process to be properly documented.

Mr Jones’ failure to record why he ignored official advice to reject Mr Liu’s application and his failure to even document under which section of the Citizenship Act he granted Mr Liu’s application brought his reputation and that of New Zealand into disrepute.

As Mr Jones observed, officials were also criticised by the auditor-general for failing to adequately brief the minister and assuming he understood his responsibilities. Fair enough. It is as important for them as it is for ministers to follow proper process.

However, having explained their concerns about Mr Liu’s dual identity and the fact he had been red-flagged by Interpol, they had grounds for thinking the minister would put the integrity of New Zealand’s citizenship ahead of his impatience to be done with a vexatious case.

The question voters may want to ask themselves ahead of the next election is would they employ someone with Mr Jones’ impetuous nature to run their company. If not would they trust him to run a government department?
A question that may be answered in time.

The Jones and Liu report

March 12th, 2013 at 2:37 pm by David Farrar

The Auditor-General has reported their findings into the decision by Shane Jones to grant Bill Liu citizenship against official advice. This is a matter of discretion for the Minister so it never has been about whether the decision was legal.

Here are some extracts from the report:

Mr Barker acted properly in deciding that he could not make the citizenship decision for Mr Liu, but we do not consider it was wise for him to have signed the letter – at least in that form. We appreciate that the letter was one of many pieces of correspondence that a Minister has to deal with in the course of a busy week, and that it related to procedure rather than any substantive decision. Nonetheless, it created an impression that Mr Barker would be taking a personal interest in Mr Liu’s file. 

Mr Barker would have been better either to amend the letter to make clear that he would not be personally involved in the file or to arrange for someone else to sign the letter.

It is worth noting that signing a letter on an issue regarding someone you had a personal connection with, was sufficient grounds for Nick Smith to resign as a Minister. Of course Barker was defeated at the 2008 election.

Mr Jones had significant concerns about the advice he was given, but did not take steps to clarify that advice with other officials. He also knew that both the New Zealand Police and Immigration New Zealand were still actively investigating Mr Liu, but did not consult those agencies before making his decision. In keeping with his usual approach for ministerial decisions, he wanted to make a final decision.

A serious mistake.

He did not record the reasons for his decision, and Mr Liu’s advisers were notified of his decision before the Department was notifed.

That is appalling. Liu got told before the Department was even told! This shows he had special access.

This effectively deprived officials of an opportunity they might otherwise have had to correct the misunderstandings on which Mr Jones’ decision was based.

I still can’t believe he told Liu before he told his own department.

One recommendation is:

We recommend that the Department of Internal Affairs and the Minister record the reasons for any significant decisions they make on citizenship applications, particularly when the decision involves a departure from normal policy or procedure. 

Recording the reasons for decisions is important to ensure transparency. It also provides an important protection if  concerns are raised that the decision has been made for an improper purpose. 

This has always been my major criticism of Jones. If you are going to go against a recommendation, a semi-competent Minister should do a file note and state why.

Now Jones did produce a three page file note to the Auditor-General. But because it was not attached to the official files, and not recorded in any official way, it is impossible to know if the file note was written at the time, or written some time later after the story blew up. The fact that the DIA official involved states the file note is inaccurate in parts damages the credibility of this claimed file note. The whole purpose of a file note is to attach it to the file.

We recommend that a Minister considering making a citizenship decision against the advice of officials should explain their reasons, and give officials the opportunity to respond, before finalising the decision. 

Although ultimately the decision is for the Minister to make, this additional step would give officials the opportunity to confirm that the proposed decision is within the terms of the Citizenship Act 1977 and is not based on any misunderstanding of relevant policies or the facts.

And it goes without saying don’t tell the mate of your mate before you tell your own officials.

Some interesting stuff also on the Cunliffe decision:

The advice provided to Mr Cunliffe by officials, in particular the advice provided by the senior legal adviser in August 2007, conveyed, in reasonably strong terms, that it was open for the Minister to revoke Mr Liu’s residency. We were told that Immigration does not usually provide advice that strongly advocates that the Minister should make a particular decision. The strongly worded advice on this occasion was not common.

In other words, it was not a marginal call in the eyes of the Department.

In our view, this decision was made in an appropriate way. It represented a sensible way in which the difficult decisions arising from unproven allegations could be addressed. The reasons for the Minister’s decision were made clear, and were formally recorded on the file in the way that was understood. 

Also, although the Department’s effective recommendation was not being followed, the decision-making process shows that Mr Cunliffe addressed the issues with considerable thought and care. There was no evidence of favouritism or that the Minister made the decision for improper reasons.

And this is the key difference between Cunliffe and Jones. Cunliffe documented his decision. This sounds a minor thing, but as the AG says is very important. When there is no reason given, and the person is a donor to your political party, then how can we know it was not because Dover told his mate Shane that this guy was a donor and they should look after him?

The detailed conclusions around the decision are:

We acknowledge that Mr Jones gave considerable thought to Mr Liu’s application, and that, in his view, it was important to make a decision reasonably promptly. 

However, in our view, he made his decision too hastily and without ensuring that he had a full understanding of all the relevant information. In particular, Mr Jones either did not understand or did not accept the Department’s advice that neither section 8 nor section 9 of the Citizenship Act were applicable.

A Minister who made decisions based either on ignorance or refusal to listen.

In our view, given that he knew there were ongoing investigations by Immigration and the New Zealand Police, he should also have consulted them before making his decision, as the Investigator’s note of the first meeting suggested he was intending to do.


We also consider that Mr Jones should have recorded his reasons for authorising the grant of citizenship. He was making a decision against the Department’s recommendation, and the basis for his decision and reasons for departing from normal policy would not have been obvious from the papers. Indeed, on the face of the decision-making papers, it was not even clear under which section of the Citizenship Act he had authorised the grant.

Shane Jones is incredibly talented, but also notoriously lazy and sloppy. He has the potential to make a significant contribution to NZ Politics, and may get that opportunity to do so again as a frontbencher for Labour. But to succeed, he is going to have to make sure there is never a repeat of a situation like this.

Beware the spin

February 14th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Labour MP Shane Jones has received a draft copy of the auditor-general’s report into his 2008 decision to grant Chinese billionaire William Yan citizenship, the report on which his political career hangs.

Neither Mr Jones nor MP David Cunliffe, who is also understood to have received a copy of the draft, will comment on the report.

However, sources suggested Mr Jones was optimistic that its contents were not damaging enough to harm his chances of a comeback to Labour’s front bench.

Stuff is reporting:

The Auditor General is reported to have cleared former immigration minister Shane Jones of any unlawful behaviour in his handling of an immigration case.

I would be very cautious of reports based on what Labour is leaking.

First of all, of course Jones will not be found to have acted unlawfully. No one has ever suggested he broke the law. That is not the issue.

The granting of citizenship has ministerial discretion. It is not unlawful to make a bad decision. It is not unlawful to ignore the fact that some one is a wanted criminal and has multiple aliases and is under investigation by four different agencies. But it is incredibly poor judgement.

I’ve never suggested that Jones personally benefited from his decision.  I think he was pressured to grant Liu citizenship to keep his mate and fellow MP Dover Samuels happy, and also the Labour Party fundraiser who had connections to his office and was being paid to “facilitate” the application.

Anyway I await the AG report with interest. What I am going to be interested in is the details. Did they find the mystery DIA official whom Jones claims told him Liu would be killed? Did they locate even one line of paperwork from Jones as to why he over-rode official advice? Did they locate any notes from Samuels disclosing that Liu was a donor?

UPDATE: Stuff is now reporting:

A report by the Auditor-General into Labour MP Shane Jones’ handling of an immigration case does not reach a ‘black and white’ conclusion, sources say.

Media today reported that Labour MP Shane Jones had been cleared by the probe. That would pave the way for his return to the front bench, from which he was demoted last year.

But a source, who had seen the report, warned the watchdogs conclusions were not straightforward in exonerating Jones.

“Those matters are a question of degree, and I would refrain from rushing to judgement…the arguments are quite complex.”

Another source agreed, saying the report is not “unequivocal.”

As I said, don’t fall for spin. Judge when the report is published.


Another dodgy decision?

February 12th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Anne Gibson at NZ Herald reports:

A Chinese migrant convicted over an Auckland kidnapping and $1 million ransom plot was allowed to work here after support from a former Associate Immigration Minister.

Wonder which one?

She presented a letter written by Labour MP Shane Jones in 2007 granting a special direction to enable her to have a one-year open work permit, despite her conviction.

I would have though kidnapping was a serious enough crime that the appropriate response would be deportation, not a work permit!

Mr Jones said he did not know Ms Shi nor did he remember writing the letter when he was Associate Immigration Minister.

Shane really needs to start keeping better file notes.

Jones vs Greens agains

November 11th, 2012 at 7:55 am by David Farrar

Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:

Northland-based Labour list MP Shane Jones has again hit out at the Green Party for opposing development of the regions’s resources, including oil and gas, which he says could help reduce spiralling Maori unemployment.

Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley this week announced which areas, including a large section of seabed off Ninety Mile Beach, would be opened up for oil and gas exploration next year. He said the Government had begun consultation with relevant iwi.

Green Party oceans spokesman Gareth Hughes said the Government was “gambling with New Zealand’s economy” by allowing the exploration in deep water, “because if there is a leak there is no sure way to stop it”.

This is just exploration, not drilling. The Greens are against us even knowing what it down there.

But Mr Jones, who has clashed with the Greens before over the prospect of mining in Northland and also over the party’s criticism of the fishing industry, said Mr Hughes’ opposition was premature.

“Let the information be uncovered first. It may be that the area is commercially barren, not unlike the minds conceiving that Green rhetoric.”

Mr Jones did not think the prospects of any significant oil and gas industry in Northland in the short term were high, “but in the absence of information you can guarantee you’ll never see it up there”.

“Let these decisions be made in a rational fashion, not this kneejerk emotionalism that one comes to expect from the Green Party.”

Decisions made on science, not kneejerk emotionalism? That would be a good thing.

If only Shane was speaking for Labour. Alas. Spokesperson Moana Mackey tweeted:

No it’s his personal view

Labour needs a couple more MPs who are pro-economy and pro-science.

More on Liu case

November 9th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Jared Savage at NZ Herald reports:

Immigration officials questioned the decision to grant a wealthy businessman citizenship while he was under investigation by three government agencies, emails reveal.

Labour MP Shane Jones, then a Cabinet minister, awarded citizenship to Yang Liu against the advice of a senior investigator at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). …

Emails obtained under the Official Information Act reveal a senior Immigration NZ investigator wrote to Mr Ross after learning of the decision.

Russell Ogilvy asked whether Mr Ross recommended that citizenship be declined and whether he had told Mr Jones “to speak with his own department regarding the decision”.

Mr Jones was the Acting Internal Affairs Minister in this case but also the Associate Immigration Minister.

“The minister was advised of both the pending police and INZ investigations,” responded Mr Ross.

Yet not only granted citizenship, but approved the special ceremony:

The emails also reveal that Mr Jones granted Mr Liu an urgent private ceremony at the request of Labour MP Dover Samuels, despite the advice of another DIA official that he did not meet the criteria.

Criteria only apply to people who are not friends of the Labour Party.

Shane Jones on Q+A on Ross Sea

October 23rd, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Shane Jones appeared on Q+A at the weekend to defend the Government’s position on fishing in the Ross Sea, from the Greens. This was notable for several reasons.

  • Jones is currently suspended as a spokesperson for Labour, so shouldn’t be agreeing to go on TV shows unless he no longer regards himself as bound by caucus discipline
  • He was (again) attacking the Greens
  • He was implicitly defending the Government’s position

Shane said:

I actually think the Kiwis are in a fantastic position of leadership, etc. They used a science-based approach. The science around that particular fishery is considerable, not only based on published papers from our own scientific community, but acknowledged by the Aussies and a host of others. Now, if it comes to pass that we completely lock it up, etc, well, that will be a decision that’s made on the basis of values. The fishing industry are there at the moment. I don’t think that their impact is anywhere near as destructive as Gareth would have it. I mean, if you take that money out of the industry, and it’s vastly more than $20 million, I mean, what is the industry to do? It can retire back home and find fresh activities. They’re not going to find activities with Gareth’s approach where they’re banning aquaculture and they’re banning fish farming.

And on the Greens and Greenpeace:

Um, I think Gareth ended up doing the bidding of the green priests, otherwise known as Greenpeace. They are an international franchise organisation, and they raise a great deal of money from our country, and they should expect to be criticised, as we are. Did the workers deserve to be dissed by the Green Party? No, they didn’t. I mean, I think it’s hypocritical at one level. Russel, someone I considerably respect as their leader, is up in a manufacturing inquiry, and Gareth is out there acquiescing with the deprecation and humiliation of New Zealand workers. You can’t have it both ways.

So what does this mean. It certainly fist my theory of Shane being happier in NZ First. NZ First love the fishing industry (especially their cheques).

Claire Robinson noted on the panel:

Interestingly, you know, Shane Jones – that could have been a government representative sitting up there talking to you. He was so much along the lines of what the government might say.

Imagine what the rest of the Labour caucus feels, having a Labour MP on the coveted Q+A show defending the Government.

Scott Yorke blogs:

 Despite not being Labour’s spokesperson on conservation or fisheries (he’s not the party’s spokesperson on any issue, after being stood down pending the Auditor General’s investigation of the William Yan matter), Jones appeared to endorse the government’s approach to the marine reserve issue. He made no attempt to distance his own views from the official Labour position.

Labour hasn’t actually determined its position on the issue. So why did Jones appear at all? Did he get clearance from David Shearer before appearing?

Labour having no position at all, is confirmed in this story:

Labour says it has not taken a position on whether to back the United States proposal for a large reserve in the Antarctic’s Ross Sea or the Government’s proposal for a smaller reserve that are about to be debated in Hobart.

Conservation spokeswoman Ruth Dyson confirmed yesterday that the party had not taken a formal position, after colleague Shane Jones appeared on TVNZ’s Q&A supporting the Government’s reserve.

“Our consistent policy has been to make sure we always use the best science,” Ruth Dyson said, as it had done to support the net bans to protect Maui dolphins.

Saying our policy is to use the best science is a slogan not a policy. The question is quite simple – does Labour back the US proposal or the NZ proposal?

Scott continues:

Labour needs a leader who will bring wayward MPs into line, because the voting public will not enthuse over a party that does not have a clear and consistent message. If some MPs won’t accept that then they need to be encouraged to consider their futures.

Or maybe he already has. Either way, the ball is in Shearer’s court.

Could Shane waka jump to NZ First

October 18th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

On Tuesday evening I was walking past Mac’s Brew Bar and sitting outside having a beer were Winston Peters and Shane Jones.

It got me thinking.

This is purely speculation, but it would solve issues for both men.

It is no secret Shane is not happy in Labour. He was furious with Shearer for calling in the Auditor-General. A number of women MPs there want him gone. He just clashed with Clare Curran on copyright parody exceptions. The grapevine suggests the Auditor-General’s report on his immigration decision may not be good for him. He will have a sense of grievance as I suspect he was told to let Liu become a citizen, as it will be good for Labour – and he now sees himself as the fall guy.

So with probably no future in Labour (does anyone think Shearer will make him front bench again?), but having undoubted political talent and smarts, could he prosper elsewhere? And NZ First is hardly likely to have objections over his ethical behaviour with citizenships, considering the Owen Glenn affair.

So what is in it for Winston (he is effectively the sole decision maker here)?

Well to give Winston credit he has defied the odds and survived multiple sackings and even being thrown out of Parliament in 2008, to come back in 2011. He has shown he is the great survivor. So what is the challenge for him now?

Well it is all about legacy, and his ultimate legacy would be a political party that can carry on without him, leaving him as revered founder. He is closer to 70 than 60, and can’t be keen on more than a couple more terms.

Now with all respect to his current caucus, none of them are up to taking over as leader. Some of them are competent and doing okay such as Tracey Martin and even Andrew Williams. But none of them could get 5% of the party vote.

However Shane Jones possibly could. He appeals to the same demographics as Winston, and are not that far apart on some policies – especially hating political correctness etc.

Could Jones defect to NZ First and become Deputy Leader (a job still vacant a year later), and heir apparent? He would add a couple of percent to the NZ First vote, and position them well to appeal to voters. If they hold the balance of power in 2014, then he is a senior Minister, and if Peters retires in 2017, leads NZ First into the next election. Fishing companies would be lining up to donate, and a fair few Iwi also I suspect.

Now this is all speculation, and there would be challenges, But it would give Jones a future, and would give Peters what he most needs – a party that can survive without him.

What do you think?

Curran v Jones on parody law

October 15th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour’s communications spokeswoman, Clare Curran, has taken her colleague Shane Jones to task for wading into her portfolio area and criticising a Green Party bill to allow exemptions to copyright for the sake of satire.

In the Weekend Herald, Mr Jones said Green MP Gareth Hughes’ proposed bill to allow copyrighted work to be used for parody or satire was part of a “Green agenda” of economic vandalism and would endanger jobs by damaging companies’ brands.

However, Ms Curran said she did not agree with Mr Jones and his comments were contrary to Labour’s general policy on the issue.

She later told the Herald she had contacted Mr Jones.

She said Mr Hughes’ Copyright (Parody and Satire) Amendment Bill was in line with Labour’s policy.

“From my perspective and our policy perspective, it’s the mark of a civilised society to do so. So my view and our policy view are not in accord with Shane Jones’ views. We will have a discussion with him when we get back [from the United States].”

Labour’s caucus was yet to discuss the bill, but she would recommend the party support it if it was drawn from the member’s ballot.

The main article on what Jones said is here. Danyl has also commented here.

On this issue I agree with Clare and Gareth. I think parody and satire should be “fair use” of material under our laws – as it is in the United States. Companies should not be able to prevent satire or parody by resort to copyright laws.

However there is an issue about how far fair use stretches. Few would say you shouldn’t be able to highlight and mock extracts from an advertisement, but is it fair use to say take an entire five minute video, and edit it into a parody? Does it make a difference if a competitor does it, or a lobby group?

There is also the reality that any attempt to remove a parody or satire of an ad, will probably just see the ad get wider publicity and hosted more widely.

If Gareth’s bill gets drawn, I hope it passes first reading. There would be some interesting factors to consider at select committee though about how far “fair use” (or “fair dealing” extends.  How would we feel if some US lobby group did ads using Fonterra’s intellectual property to try and damage their brand in the US and cause harm to NZ exports?

For me the principle is clear, that parody and satire should be allowed. The details may need some work.

Jones v Greens

October 3rd, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:

A Greenpeace spoof of a Sealord advertisement has brought an angry reaction from Labour MP Shane Jones, who has accused the environmental group as anti-worker and duplicitous towards Maori.

Mr Jones, a former Sealord chairman, also singled out the Green Party, “the political wing of the Greenpeace movement”, for its support of the stunt, which he felt undermined the company in a tough economic climate.

The Greens do seem to be against a lot of jobs. Against mining jobs. Against oil jobs. Against fishing jobs. Against roading jobs.

Mr Jones said it was “a step too far” and the equivalent of economic vandalism at a time when jobs were scarce.

“When the Green Party and the Green Priests [Greenpeace] take on a role of using that ad to humiliate, trash and parody not only the brand of the company but its workers, it’s a step too far.”

Imagine the fun we’ll have if we have a Labour/Green Government in 2014!

Espiner on Liu

August 27th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Guyon Espiner and 60 minutes did a 20 minute programme last night on the Bill Liu case. Espiner blogs on it today:

It’s not often that you put an item of nearly 20 minutes to air and still feel that there was plenty more of the story still to tell. 

60 Minutes Producer Chris Wilks and I spent a month digging deep into the story of Citizen Yan and had access to documents giving us an enormous amount of detail. 

But we still feel there is plenty we don’t know. 

In fact all the things which, for most people are very simple, in Yan’s case, are opaque. 

Like what’s his name? Yong Ming Yan, Yang Liu, Bill Liu, Wiremu Liu and William Yan are among his monikers. The search warrant for his Metropolis apartment also seeks documents in the name of Yong Ming Run. 

What about another simple question. Where does he live? That’s easy. He lives on the 35th floor of the MetropolisTower, known as Room 3505. He bought units 35H-L inclusive – property titles 138A/534, 138A/319, 138A/320, 138A/321 and 138A/322 – and combined them into one residence. 

He still lives there but he sold them in 2010 to Khai Wain Ng. The curious thing about that is that Khai Wain Ng had listed Room 3505 of the Metropolis as the address for his company, Global Market International Limited, as early as 2007. 

So is Liu also Ng? And still to this day we have no idea who Liu really is.

Curiously Liu’s early submissions claim that he was the Vice President of the Chinese Democracy Party. His lawyers argued that the Chinese government may want to persecute him for that and for information about the party’s 30,000 secret members. 

We tried to check with the CDP in New York but they would not confirm, or deny, whether he had held that position. Certainly their website names other Vice Presidents but no one going by the names Yan has used. 

In the paperwork, officials point out that if Yan felt he was the subject of political persecution there were appropriate avenues for him to take. 

“These claims, which effectively amount to an allegation of political persecution, could be advanced by Mr Liu before specialist forums namely the Refugee Status Branch and the Refugee Status Appeals Authority,” officials wrote. 

He did not do that. He appealed to the politicians and the politicians helped him. 

And did they ever help him.

Here are the questions that still need to be answered. 

How did Dover Samuels get to know William Yan and why did he go into bat so strongly for him? 

Why, after Rick Barker was introduced to Yan in 2005, did he take until mid-2008 to hand the case over to Shane Jones? 

What checks did Shane Jones make to see whether he had a conflict of interests in this case? We point out in the story that there is a shared business history between Jones and Liu. Liu was a director, and through his company Live Fish, a shareholder in the joint venture Crabco. One of the other shareholders was Te Ohu Kaimoana of which Jones was chair between 2000 and 2007. 

Now I am prepared to accept that this was a fact that Jones may not have had great interest or even awareness of. But did he check? Was it considered? We know that he knew of Liu’s role with Crabco and Live Fish because it was in the submission that QC John Billington made to Jones pleading the case for Liu’s citizenship. 

Pansy Wong also mentions the company, which she describes as a “joint venture with Talleys, Sealord and Sanford” in a letter received by Rick Barker’s office on February 4, 2008. 

David Shearer has said on Jones’ behalf that Jones had met Liu on one or two occasions. In what capacity? And why did the Internal Affairs official Johannes Gambo claim that Liu had rung him more than once during the process to claim that he had “big support” from Jones and from Samuels. 

It all looks very suspicious. Did Liu have a commitment from Jones he would approve it? Is that why Barker delegated it to Jones? And recall that Liu had paid $10,000 to a Labour Party fundraiser to help him with his application – and whose brother was the senior staffer for Jones.

The greatest mystery to me is why Jones approved the citizenship application and did so without documenting his reasons. 

He says he made a file note of an official telling him that Yan would be sent to his death and his organs harvested if he returned to China. 

Jones hasn’t produced the note and says he didn’t put it on the file. Why not? There are hand written notes from Jones on Parliamentary notepad paper in the file we saw. But not that one. 

He says he’s glad he didn’t put it on the file because the file “leaked”. But if you were a Minister making a controversial decision against the advice of officials wouldn’t you want your reasons to be there in black and white when the scrutiny came on? 

I don’t think it is unreasonable to suspect there was no file note ever made, and the reason is bogus. Jones can not produce the note, and it was not put on the file. He can not name the official, and no official can be found who said they gave such advise.

The worst case scenario is this is a case of citizenship sold for favours (not to Jones directly but to others in Labour). The best case for Jones is it is gross incompetence. To not do a comprehensive file note stating your reasons when you overturn the advice of officials and grant citizenship to such a dubious character is incompetent.

I personally like Shane Jones, and regard him as one of the best communicators in Parliament. He had great potential. But this Liu case has always hung over him. Unless he can produce some proof to back up his claims about why he granted citizenship against official advice – then he can not be allowed to become a Minister again – and hence a shadow Minister.