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Shane Jones blasts another corporate boss

Author
Audrey Young, NZ Herald,
Section
Politics,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 13 March 2019, 9:13p.m.
Shane Jones has criticised Spark's CEO for commenting on the GCSB's interim decision on Huawei. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Shane Jones has criticised Spark's CEO for commenting on the GCSB's interim decision on Huawei. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Cabinet Minister Shane Jones has launched an attack on Spark chief executive Simon Moutter for going public with the interim decision by the GCSB to block Huawei's involvement in its 5G plans.

Jones' message was that Spark should have considered New Zealand's foreign policy ahead of the company's more narrow interests.

He said the company had done a disservice to New Zealand and its statement had been "highly disruptive to our foreign policy."

Jones' comments are in contrast to those of his New Zealand First leader and Foreign Minister Winston Peters who has downplayed difficulties with China over the GCSB interim decision.

In a speech in Parliament today, Jones said he had a message for corporate New Zealand: "Do not arrogantly take upon yourselves the ability to influence foreign policy and make these unwise statements as Mr Simon Moutter did to the sharemarket, thus providing an opportunity for anxiety and stress for all of our exporters."

Jones' message to corporate New Zealand went further: "Show judiciousness. Do not go beyond your corporate writ."

While Jones did not mention Huawei or the Government Communications Security Bureau in Parliament, he confirmed it was about the statement made by Moutter to the New Zealand stock exchange and in a press release on November 28 - the same day Moutter was notified by GCSB that the use of Huawei in 5G would raise significant security risks.

In response to Jones' attack, Spark said in a statement that it had been obliged to make the statement it did and it was not involved in Huawei's subsequent publicity campaign.

"This announcement was required under our continuous disclosure obligations as a public listed company," spokesman Andrew Pirie said.

"Since then, we have refrained from substantive public comment on this matter, except to state we are still in discussions with GCSB officials and have not yet made any decision on whether or when we should submit a revised proposal to GCSB (as per the process laid out under the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013 (TICSA).

"Spark has no involvement in the recent advertising campaign launched in New Zealand by Huawei. We were not privy to details of this campaign prior to its launch," Pirie said.
Jones, who is Minister of Infrastructure, is leading a delegation next week to Singapore and Hong Kong, but returning for a family wedding while the delegation goes to China.

He believed no statement from Spark had been necessary last November because there had been no finality to the 5G plan.

He told the Herald his remarks were not something he had dreamed up but were based on comments on from other senior business figures in New Zealand.

"The board of Spark and the CEO are there to advance the interests of their own shareholders. The Government exists to advance the interests of the nation which are demonstrably larger than Simon Moutter or the directors of that particular company.

"The effect of his statement ricocheted around the world."

Jones said he had been advised that up 500 million people had read Spark's statement.

"They must have known it would have a very disruptive effect on all exporters and the actual international name of New Zealand so I say to them 'are your directorial roles so narrow that you don't think like that?'

He said there was $28 billion of two-way trade at stake between New Zealand and China.

"That decisions, highly disruptive to our foreign policy, extraordinarily nerve-racking for New Zealand's traders….if the directors of Spark didn't think that far, that broad, only thought of one small company desperate to get 5G earlier than anyone else, then in my view they have done New Zealand a disservice."

Jones has made a habit of hitting out at corporate New Zealand: Air New Zealand and Fonterra were in his sights last year.

It is understood that Spark's technical experts with security clearance have had detailed discussions with the GCSB about its concerns.

If Spark's mitigation proposals are not approved by GCSB, the decision can be referred to Andrew Little as the Minister Responsible for the GCSB.

The actual rollout of 5G comes under the responsibility of Communications Minister Kris Faafoi.

 

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