I imagine most Houses of Representatives around the world have a maverick or two in them – slightly unhinged, seemingly clever and charismatic, yet one for any party leader to keep a wary watch on. If that is the case, Shane Jones of New Zealand First is undoubtedly one of this community.
Mr Jones entered Parliament as a Labour M.P. in 2005 and served until his departure in 2014. He was Minister for Building and Construction from October 2007 through to Labour’s defeat in 2008. He was found to have used a credit card to hire pornographic films and to charter an executive jet at cost of $1,200 when his schedule allegedly changed. This led to him being demoted in Labour and stripped of his shadow portfolio’s.
Viewed as a potential vote winner by some, Mr Jones extensive networks in Maoridom, his chairmanship of the Waitangi organizing committee give him considerable influence. His support of Talleys and Sealord, both of whom have been linked to Mr Jones’ various election campaigns, however may put him offside with the union activists for supporting the companies attack on the largely Maori Afco workforce.
Later Mr Jones was at the centre of a citizenship probe when he was found to have supported a Chinese businessman wanting New Zealand citizenship on humanitarian grounds. Whilst the charges against the businessman, William Yan were dropped eventually, Mr Jones was investigated by the Auditor General at the request of the then Labour leader David Shearer.
Mr Jones however also has his critics and they are many. They range from New Zealand rank and file members through to members of the public. Their reasons for opposing Mr Jones range from his questionable history in the Labour Party; his lack of coal face time in New Zealand First – he got selected over and above candidates who had been with the party for several years; concerns about whether or not anyone would be able to keep Mr Jones in check should he start rabbiting of to the media. Another cause of concern was that Talley’s fishing company was bankrolling Mr Jones’ 2017 election campaign.
Mr Jones however has gone himself into a potentially damaging mud fight with Air New Zealand. For years the national carrier has been slowly cutting out Link routes such as those that go to/from the Kapiti Coast. This week in a rather ugly spat claims and counter claims all came to the surface in a way that does not really cast any of the major players in a favourable light.
In the course of the dispute so far Mr Jones who is Minister for Regional Development lambasted the Chief Executive of the airline, as well as the Chair of the Air New Zealand board. This followed a decision by Air New Zealand to cut some regional links that are viewed as important to the well being of those regions. The airline hit back, stating that any view of a lack of independence would be view as damaging to the interests of all involved, including the Crown. However the National Party alleges that Mr Jones accepted an R.S.V.P. to attend a dinner hosted by Air New Zealand that would feature former United States President Barak Obama.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Mr Jones to tone down the attacks on Air New Zealand. It remains to be seen whether this maverick Member of Parliament, Minister for Regional Development and apparent friend of New Zealand First leader Winston Peters will comply or keep up his attack.