Is Shane Jones fit to be a Minister of the Crown?

Shane Geoffrey Jones is a 59 year two time Member of Parliament and Minister of the Crown.

Mr Jones entered Parliament in 2005 in 27th place on the Labour Party list. For the next nine years until his 2014 departure Mr Jones built up a reputation as a colourful M.P.

Combative on one hand, charismatic on the other, some may well see Mr Jones as the successor intended for when Mr Peters decides to end his political career. Divisive, yet well known and liked in key electorates it hardly seems like a logical choice for New Zealand First to be led by someone who only joined the party in the year of the election.

Mr Jones has courted significant controversy during his time as a Labour Member of Parliament and Minister of Immigration, as well as his current tenure as a New Zealand First Member of Parliament and Minister of Regional Development.  During the latter he approved the citizenship application of a Chinese man who it was understood was at risk of execution if he stayed in China. Mr Jones ignored official advice to decline the application because of false representations on it. The man was charged with false representations. The charges were later dropped, but not before Mr Jones was asked for the case to be referred to the Auditor General, which he agreed to.

Between 2014 and 2017, Mr Jones was out of Parliament, having chose to retire and become a Pacific Economic Ambassador. He re-entered Parliament in September 2017 as a Member of New Zealand First, just a few months after joining a party in which he had had little or no involvement with up to that point.

Since re-entering politics, Mr Jones’ reputation for controversy has continued. In March 2018, he and Air New Zealand engaged in a spat over the company’s decision to cut flights into Kapiti, with Mr Jones assailing the Chief Executive. A few months later he attacked Air New Zealand over their flight safety videos.

But his most recent spat is the most serious. Mr Jones took issue with a journalist for trying to hold him to account on reassurances he had made to colleagues over a meeting about a project where he declared a conflict of interest. Hamish Rutherford published a report regarding this. Mr Jones threatened to malign him in Parliament under Parliamentary privilege. Whilst this enables politicians to exercise freedom of speech to say whatever they want as long as it is done within the House, this is a serious issue because whomever is maligned has no legal comeback whatsoever.

A Minister of the Crown Mr Jones should know better – and I suspect Mr Jones does – than to make such threats and to think that he is somehow above scrutiny would be a contradiction of media freedom in New Zealand. It is after the entire purpose as far as I am concerned of the fifth estate to hold politicians and other officials to account.

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