Despite ruling out working with the Greens when he was last in parliament, Shane Jones now says with Russel Norman gone, he could. He says he looks forward to debating Metiria Turei.
Jones says Hone Harawira should “park up” his idea of executing Chinese drug suppliers, but he has his own solution. “I really think that something akin to a special prosecutor’s office, almost a Kiwi-type of Eliot Ness is needed to follow the money and really bring the force of the State to smash what is organised crime.”
Jones has taken a swipe at the Maori Party, saying it has done a lot of damage. “They’ve had nine years to prove themselves. Sure, they’ve got the flag on the harbour bridge. That was Hone Harawira. Sure, they changed the law with smoking, but that was Hone Harawira. That was not Tariana Turia.”
Lisa Owen: Finally, one of the worst-kept secrets of New Zealand politics is out. Shane Jones will stand for New Zealand First in Whangarei. I’m sure you’re all surprised. His return to politics has been talked about ever since he left in 2014. But he’ll have a tough fight in the long-time safe National seat where Shane Reti holds a healthy majority. Shane Jones joins me now.
Shane Jones: Kia ora.
Kia ora. If you are the answer, what was the question?
Well, without a doubt, our area, the Northland, in particular, Whangarei has been taken for granted by the current regime. I think with my arrival, I’ll certainly set the contest alight. My upbringing resonates with a lot of Whangarei people born and bred in the north on the farm. Did well educationally, but my roots are in the north, and that’s exactly what’s being sought — a home-grown champion who is not afraid to take on vested interests.
So what was Shane Reti’s majority last time up?
Look, I don’t have any illusions how big a challenge it’s going to be. I take some inspiration from Brian Donnelly in the mid-’90s when he came within 200 votes of winning that seat. Me old buddy, David Shearer, without probably breaking a sweat got 10,11 thousand votes. So I’m going to prove my critics wrong that I was a bit dilatory when I campaigned for Labour. I’m going to prove them wrong. There’s not a pavement, not a road or a household or a business that I will not pay attention to to win this seat.
Mm. Cos how many electorates have you stood in before and how many have you won?
When Helen and I did the deal and I joined Labour, I stood against John Carter. Then I stood a second time in Northland. Then I stood against Dr Sharples…
So you’re zero for three in electorates.
Yeah, well, they were tough electorates, but, hey, the reality is the election’s in 90 days…
So is this one, though, isn’t it? This one is a tough electorate too, isn’t it? 13,000 majority.
There’s two elements. It’s going to be a tough election and it’s a tough electorate, but I’m no shrinking violet. I’m a tough character. I’ve got a lot of passion. I know how to resonate with people. And, sure, from time to time, some of my remarks might be a bit injudicious, but they’ll be a few cultural haematomas going through this election because some of the issues we’re going to touch on, people may feel awkward about them.
To claw back those numbers, you’re going to have to appeal to a broad range of people, so how are you going to do that? Cos you’re going to have to take votes from everyone, aren’t you?
Yeah, well, we’ll find votes when we talk about issues that are relevant to the garden-variety family in Whangarei. And what are those issues? They’re about jobs, they’re about industry. They’re about quality of life. But there’s also the issue that no one is showing political will to take on in the north. And that is the growth of narco-criminality — the power that the gangs have. The power that they have to spread menace amongst God-fearing ordinary Kiwi families. And they prey on their own. And that’s one issue I’m not going to take a backward step on.
Well, you’ve brought that up. So, Hone Harawira has taken a hard hard line. He says that you should execute Chinese drug smugglers. Are you with him on that?
Yeah, well, Hone destroyed his career by associating with a fat German, and he’s running the prospects of ruining what’s left of his career by associating with the leader of the Philippines. So park that up because he’s making himself irrelevant. I really think that something akin to a special prosecutor’s office, almost a Kiwi-type of Eliot Ness is needed to follow the money and really bring the force of the State to smash what is organised crime. Make no mistake, the people that are being killed, the people that are being jailed throughout the north, are profiting and they’re totally attracted to enormous amounts of filthy lucre from the drug trade. And they are approaching proportions of narco-criminality. Make no mistake about that.
All right. So are you in this for the long haul or are you just going to stay until you get bored or maybe don’t get the leadership?
No. I enjoyed my three years up in the Pacific. Notwithstanding about a dengue fever. I had an option to continue within that creed. But I’ve got a passion and I’ve had a thirst to come back to politics. And, look, this is the second chance that I’ve been given through New Zealand First. I guess with the admonishment, ‘Don’t make the mistakes of the first time round.’
What were the mistakes that you’ll be trying to avoid?
Oh, well, I have to deal with the fact that many of you punished me over credit-card lapses, but that’s all in the future now. Like I’ve said elsewhere, Tana Umaga gets punished for one spear tackle and the media have got to leave that alone. And, yeah, there were issues that I had in terms of my time with Labour, but I’ve solved that problem for them now.
Well, the thing is, Winston Peters said just yesterday that he is at the peak of his physical and intellectual powers at the moment, so he’s going to be around for a while. So if you’re looking at the leadership, you might have to wait for a bit, eh?
Well, I went to St Stephen’s School, and you learnt the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon, so whatever Winston’s physical levels of endurance are, I’ve got no doubt about them whatsoever. First, win Whangarei. Make myself relevant. Make myself known again to ordinary Whangarei-ites who don’t remember me, because I’ve been away for three-odd years — largely in the Pacific. But make sure that they vote for the Shane who wants to excel in the political theatre and send the other fulla back to the operating theatre.
But where you say you’re patient, and you’re happy to wait, and you’re there for the long-haul — you are looking towards the leadership long-term, aren’t you?
Well, I’m 57, and you’re not going to trick me like Willie Jackson, I’m sorry. I’m 57, and in some way, okay, that shows an older generation in terms of the juveniles joining the Greens, but put that to the side. I am here to make a long-term commitment, win Whangarei, but, most importantly, harvest votes in prodigious proportions, because that gives leverage to influence the formation of the next government.
OK, speaking of the next government, Andrew Little says you’re a friend of Labour, are you?
I’ve still got lots of mates left in Labour; diminishing, however, with the disappearance of Shearer and the upcoming retirement of Cossie, but, obviously, most of the Maori in the party know me well, et cetera.
So, in terms of forming a government, potentially forming a government after this election, the thing is Labour could probably come with the Greens, and you’ve said before it would be a long day in hell if you served under a Green government. Is that still your position?
Well, the garrulous Aussie, Norman has gone. He’s where he belongs, in the Greenpeace. So, I don’t think you should treat historic statements as being static facts; that’s the first thing.
But Metiria’s still there. Metiria Turei was there when you made that comment, and she still is. I mean, she once described you as being sexist and said you were a 19th century man living in the 21st century. Would you be happy for her to be one of your bosses?
Oh, well, I look forward to debating with her in the election, et cetera, and I don’t get too hung up about various rhetorical missiles that are flung around. But in terms of forming the next government—
So, you’ve mellowed about the Greens, have you?
Oh, well, we must move on from the imperfect part of my career. We’re going into a new phase where there’s a lot more diligence; there’s a lot more focus, but the passion is still there. In relation to the formation of the next government—
And more pragmatism?
There’s one thing you can say about me, I was never doctrinaire or dogmatic. That is why, in many occasions, I parted company with the Labour party.
So you could work with the Greens in government?
Well, I am pragmatic, but the reality is — first create the leverage by boosting the vote.
But you’re not ruling it out, then?
No, all I’m saying is I’m going to win Whangarei, and I’m going to help Winston harvest votes up and down the country in nga hau e wha — the four winds — and then the wind that blows us into parliament is going to put the country on an entirely different course.
All right, well, let’s cover off a few other things. Should Peter Thiel have got citizenship?
Oh, look, I’m not across the details on that.
Are you not across the details on that because you don’t want to be drawn into a conversation of whether you should have given Bill Liu citizenship?
Oh yeah, no, that goes back to 2007. An issue—
Was that one of the mistakes that you wouldn’t want to repeat?
Well, now, look, I can’t walk away from the decision I made with the information that was in front of me at the time. Now, what happened in the last 10 years, and certainly over the last three years, I haven’t followed it closely, et cetera. It’s a decision I made. It’s one I was pinged on by the audit department. It’s one that the media have continued to pursue me on, but it’s 10 years old, and you’re not going to get any more comment out of me about it.
All right, immigration is a core issue for New Zealand First, so what do you think is the right number of people coming into the country every year?
I think you’ve got to step back, and we need to challenge the notion when a politician talks about wanting to change the mix of immigration. They are immediately branded as having some sort of phobia. I resent that. If it’s not politicians who are going to influence the character and the mix of our future population, then who the hell’s going to do it? The media? The academics?
Okay, so what’s the number, then?
During the course of the election, we’ll roll out the final details of our immigration policy.
What’s happened to the Shane Jones who would give you a direct answer?
No, no, no, no, no, no. You’re talking about—
Have you been told not to talk about these things?
Let’s look at the area that I know about. I was with Helen Clark that rolled out the RSE scheme. It’s actually a scheme that I believe has worked. It’s an area of immigration policy that has done a great deal of good.
But you can’t give me a number at the moment? Okay.
I will not be giving you an arithmetical exactitude in this answer.
All right. Let’s move on, then. TPP. You chaired a hui in Whangarei to convince Maori leaders that the TPP was a great thing that would benefit Northland Maori. Winston Peters doesn’t want a bar of it. Who’s changed their mind, then? Are you more aligned with Winston now?
The meeting that you’re referring to is one that I did as a diplomat. Now, I don’t walk away from the fact I chaired Sealord’s and chaired the Fisheries Commission and trade is essential to the future.
So, what, you were a paid gun at the time and you said what you were supposed to?
Well, I was both paid and I am a gun, quite so, but there’s more than one bullet in the barrel. But the point I’m making is that—
No, hang on, this is important. You were towing the party line that you were paid to deliver. Is that what you were saying at the time?
Look, the meeting you’re talking about, I chaired it. The purpose of people coming along was to thrash out their issues about trade.
But you were also supportive. You said supportive things about the TPP.
In that particular meeting, I had a stance which reflected the policy of my boss, Murray McCully. The TPP deal is now dead.
Well, no, it’s still being worked on.
No, it’s dead.
It’s being worked on in another form, Mr Jones.
Okay, well, let’s wait and see about that.
So, let’s be clear, are you for it or against it?
I didn’t vote on the TPP, and I have no idea. It’s dead, and I have no idea what the future is going to hold for the TPP. I don’t know.
So, Winston’s not a fan. You can’t say where you sit.
Well, no, I think if you look at the last manifesto, it’s wrong to say that Winston’s not a fan of trade. He’s a fan of trade that suits the essential interests of New Zealand, and I’m cool with that.
I didn’t say he wasn’t a fan of trade. I was naming a specific deal, but you’re not prepared to say where you stand on it now?
Well, there is no TPP deal.
In that form, but they’re still working on something.
We’re dealing with facts. We’re not dealing with imaginary scenarios.
Should the Maori electorates stay? You stood in one at one time.
I think the Maori electorates will stay for as long as the people who are on them want them to survive. I do feel that the Maori party, however, is doing a lot of damage. Not so much to the Maori electorates, but they’ve had nine years to prove themselves. Sure, they’ve got the flag on the harbour bridge. That was Hone Harawira. Sure, they changed the law with smoking, but that was Hone Harawira. That was not Tariana Turia.
Okay. We’re almost out of time. I want a quick question. Are you going to get anyone else to join the party? John Tamihere? Clayton Cosgrove. Are you hunting for anyone else?
Look, they’re knocking at the door thunderously, but I won’t give any secrets away.
No names? Nice to talk to you.