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Barry Soper: Memo to Shane 'big chief' Jones - show some humility

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Tue, 12 Mar 2019, 6:46AM
Honouring himself as "Shane Jones, the big chief" he said the people of the Far North always want to have him involved in things.
Honouring himself as "Shane Jones, the big chief" he said the people of the Far North always want to have him involved in things.

Barry Soper: Memo to Shane 'big chief' Jones - show some humility

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Tue, 12 Mar 2019, 6:46AM

COMMENT:

Shane Jones is a colourful fellow - but he can also be highly irritating, especially when he talks about himself in the third person (which is usually self-congratulatory about how important he in the scheme of things).

Honouring himself as "Shane Jones, the big chief" he said the people of the Far North always want to have him involved in things.

With around $100 million pumped into the region from his Provincial Growth Fund, with no doubt more to come over the next two years, he certainly is the big cheese in his home base.

But if he's wanting to maintain the integrity of his $3 billion fund as the taxpayers' largesse benefits the regions rather than New Zealand First's electoral chances, he has to tone down the wise cracks and treat any criticism of it and himself a little more seriously.

Jones' latest outburst comes following the recent signoff of almost $5m to Manea Footprints of Kupe, a culture, heritage and education centre in Northland. Jones declared a conflict of interest in the project when he became the fund's benefactor as it was set up as part of the coalition deal with New Zealand First.

He had a conflict because he'd advocated for the cultural centre before becoming a minister and had attended a meeting of ministers last year when the money for the project was being signed off.

The minister's bible, the Cabinet Manual, gives them guidance on how to manage conflicts of interest which obviously precludes them from approving or signing off projects requiring taxpayers' funds. This one had actually been opposed by Treasury, although it would seem the government's advisers are being taken less notice of these days.

So why did the conflicted minister sit in on the meeting with his colleagues on this project? Jones says to provide the facts and 'the bible' doesn't require them to absent themselves.

But surely the ministers would have had all the facts they needed, considering they had already been briefed and were deciding to hand over so much money. Minutes from the meeting show reassurances from Jones about the project were good enough for Finance Minister Grant Robertson, and ministers Kelvin Davis, David Parker and Phil Twyford to approve it.

Given Jones was the only minister from the all-powerful Peters Party he should have - at the very least - left the room and let the others to make up their minds without his influence.

Jones says his declaration of a conflict of interest was more about perception than reality.

Well politics is about perception - and Jones would do well to bear in mind it's the very thing that gets people elected and governments defeated.

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