New Zealand First Member of Parliament and Minister for Regional Development, Shane Jones, is no stranger to controversy. Over the last two decades, Mr Jones has had a colourful time in Parliament, having to quit after allegations he helped a Chinese national gain citizenship. Since his return to Parliament in the 2017 General Election, Mr Jones’ time in Parliament has been no less colourful. But is it helping the Government he works for?
Across the last three years, Mr Jones has been involved in an array of controversies. Some of them have not really been anything more than a storm in a teacup, but others like his donations from various fishing companies, comments on Indian students and support for a transporting business owner accused of flouting the law, have the potential to be damaging.
Mr Jones’ insistence on preferential treatment of the fishing companies such as Sea Lord, Talleys and others extends to:
- attempts to water down proposed marine reserves around New Zealand
- plans to install surveillance cameras on fishing boats being delayed – intended as a way of identifying those who abuse crew, dump illegally and misrepresent what they catch
- Donations being made to the New Zealand First Foundation
Following that there was the case of a transport company run by a relative of Mr Jones called Stan Semenoff Logging, which was accused of hiring Filipino workers. Semenoff Logging, which had been ordered off the road over 116 separate traffic offences clocked by drivers of its trucks, was found to have concerned Filipino workers whose evidence was being used in a New Zealand Transport Agency case against S.S.L. Mr Jones confirmed that he had talked to the N.Z.T.A. about the case in what National M.P. Paul Goldsmith contends is a breach of the rules in the Cabinet Manual about what a Minister can and cannot do.
In a more recent case, Mr Jones launched a tirade against Indian students which he said unfettered immigration was out of control in a thinly veiled commentary about “everyone who comes here from Delhi. He referred to the critics of his comments as “the woke left” and reminded them that “charges of xenophobia are never going to work against me” and that “whakapapa in New Zealand goes back 1,000 years”.
Mr Jones was also made to correct numerous Question Time answers regarding meetings he had had with representatives of various interests after it emerged his official had not recorded 61 meetings.
Mr Jones undermines the Government’s claim to transparency when he acts outside the rules of the Cabinet Manual. He also risks getting New Zealand offside with ethnic minorities in this country, irrespective of how long his whakapapa goes back in New Zealand – a year or a millennia, Mr Jones needs to watch his tongue.