Patrick Gower interviews Shane Jones
Patrick Gower interviews Shane Jones
Shane Jones says Parliament's Commerce Select Committee has been subject to "threatening behaviour" from Countdown's lawyers
Gower: We are aware that a letter exists
Jones: There is a letter around….I challenge you to follow up and you'll find further evidence that when this Aussie-owned supermarket feels it's backed in a corner, it comes out and uses every device available.
Jones calls for review of the Gambling Act; says $33.5 million jackpots are too high
Says it's not in society's interests to have Lotto available at checkouts and it "represents a spread of gambling into the community"
On Labour's poll ratings and leader David Cunliffe's personal popularity being in single figures: "We are who we are, we have our Rangatira David"
Patrick Gower: Shane Jones thank you for coming on. You saw the Mad Butcher CEO there talking about the pressure on suppliers…you've led this attack on Countdown this is what it's been all about in your eyes, hasn't it?
Shane Jones: Yeah look suppliers have not stopped talking to me. I've encouraged them to go to the Commerce Commission, the Commerce Commission I'm hoping has the legislative powers to do the job, if it doesn't I've no doubt the Labour caucus will agree to change their powers so in the future this sort of gouging doesn't continue but suppliers I've encouraged them to show courage and use the best opportunity to tame this Aussie owned supermarket's excesses.
So you're talking about Commerce Commission reform under a Labour government, giving it more teeth are you?
Oh absolutely, absolutely. Look part of the problem is that -
What does it need?
Well part of the difficulty is that people are fearful if there anonymity is compromised, are we driven out of business. That's the first thing. The second thing is that the Commerce Commission itself has looked at this on numerous occasions. I can tell you the president of the Commerce Commission had to recuse himself cause he had advised legally the suppliers in New Zealand that were taking on the supermarkets before. So during the course of the week I'm looking forward to my colleague Mr Cosgrove bringing forward some ideas as to how we'd strengthen this area of commercial practice.
Yeah how exactly would they work, I mean..how do you
Well look we've had a contribution from the Greens, I mean that's their call, we led this episode more recently, and ah, I'll just taihoa Mr Cosgrove comes out. But I would say something that the Commerce Select Committee itself has been subject to threatening behaviour from Countdown lawyers so you'll hear more about that during the course of the week.
Such as? How, how have they threatened…you're talking about the threatening of a parliamentary select committee?
Indeed I am. So you just wait during the course of the week and follow that up yourself.
We are aware that a letter exists, are you saying there's been a legal letter -
Yeah, I haven't, I don't enjoy the privilege of being on that Commerce Select Committee but um, there is a letter around. We'd be breaking certain Parliamentary rules if I was to … in fact I don't have it…but I'm saying I challenge you to follow up and you'll find further evidence that when this Aussie-owned supermarket feels it's backed in a corner, it comes out and uses every device available.
Now let's talk about evidence because you've used language about the supermarkets that neither of us would like us to repeat here but one thing you haven't done is fronted with any evidence Shane Jones. You haven't got any evidence have you?
No, the position I took was under the cloak of Parliamentary Privilege and I'm entitled to do that as a New Zealand parliamentarian, a right going back to the 1688 Bill of Rights.
And I don't deny you that but what I'm saying is where is your hard evidence?
Well the evidence will be presented, I've not a sliver of doubt, to the Commerce Commission but the Commerce Commission needs to get off its jacksey and go out there and actively and vigorously talk, interview and give people the reassurance when they front up about their treatment at the hands of this Aussie-owned supermarket they're not going to drive themselves into bankruptcy.
But let's look at the big picture here, the Aussie supermarkets are tough but they're in a tough business, they're dealing with big multinationals up the supply chain. They're equally as tough on Countdown and Progressive as they are down the chain, isn't that what all this is about, it's just business?
Well, look I came from the fishing industry so I don't need a lecture about how robust business is etc but there are specific allegations which the Commerce Commission is teasing through, and I've got to say to you, this is the supermarket that now has an option and has a right to sell Lotto at every single checkout counter and we heard the Mad Butcher say every time the Lotto sales go up, I’m saying I'll bet you kai is going from the mouths of children -
Yup, we'll come to that in a minute but what I want to say first is last year on the campaign trail for the Labour leadership you talked about regulating supermarkets to get cheaper food. Is that what this is about for you, cheaper food?
No what I described the supermarkets as, as really as, I used an unfortunate term which I won't bother repeating. Well I will, I called them the brownshirts but I've moved on from that although some of this behaviour suggests I had it right.
You compared them to Nazis –
What we need to do -
You compared them to Nazis –
You compared them to Nazis
Well you, ah, it's called political rhetoric Paddy. But tell me this: New Zealanders know that something is seriously awry. New Zealanders know that there's four things – there's insurance, there's energy, there's housing and food. And I'm focused on food and I'm telling you with the duopoly practice and the treatment that this Aussie-owned supermarket is dishing out to suppliers etc and the profits they're taking back to New Zealand. You can't tell me that's an acceptable state of affairs.
But I'm not telling you that but what I'm telling you is if Countdown goes easier on suppliers, it will put up food prices for you and I. You and I will pay for tomatoes. You and I will pay more for whatever
In actual fact competition is what keeps, competition is what keeps prices moderate, okay? Now I'm not convinced that the duopoly model at the moment without a suitable level of regulation or without some sort of ombudsman that is being talked about actually delivers prices that should be as cheap as possible. You just had the Mad Butcher saying that his prices etc are, are in trouble because his suppliers are being monstered by Countdown.
Okay, let's move on to Lotto now, Countdown has rolled out Lotto at the checkout so you can go through, buy your Lotto when you buy your groceries, you don't have to queue up twice, you can whack it on your Visa. What's your problem with that?
Well to the best of my knowledge you can't use your credit card when you go gambling at the Queenstown casino or something like that. The only type of gambling in New Zealand that's grown since 2003 substantially is Lotto. The racing industry is in a very dreadful state. Why? Because a lot of online betting happens in Australia and we lose that revenue. Lotto has grown with Countdown, the Aussie-owned supermarket, basically putting a one-armed bandit, a miniature one at every Countdown checkout counter. You're bringing gambling into the community. The 2003 Gambling Act was meant to regulate the extent to which gambling came into the community. When I go to Queenstown that's destination gambling. Lotto now is in the pivotal point of community infrastructure. You go to a supermarket more than you go to a rugby club, more than you go to church, more than you go to a train station –
More than you –
Yes, well us Anglicans have problems. The point I'm making mate is once you make Lotto available at the Countdown, once the jackpot goes up and I agree with the Mad Butcher, the jackpot's probably too big. What do you buy? Weetbix, orange or a big fat Wednesday?
Okay so what are you going to do about it? Are you going to cap that jackpot?
What I'm really wanting to do is have an immediate review of the 10 year Gambling Act. I genuinely feel that Lotto which is the Kiwi game I admit after the All Blacks etc but is it in society's interests to make Lotto gambling available at every checkout counter in the Aussie-owned supermarket. They get it both ways mate, through gouging the price of groceries, they spirit profits back to Australia and now with usurious charges on Lotto tickets, they're doing it both ways. I'm not happy with that.
Ya, sure, it’s not just Mad Butcher, we are hearing other people say it as well, actually Michael Morton said it directly, they are losing about 15 percent in some shops on jackpot days, are you concerned, like he is about capping that jackpot?
Ya, look I’m on 140k, born and bred in Kaitaia and that’s a good handsome salary for people from the North etc. Give me five million dollars bro through the Lotto would change my life, even with that handsome salary and I just wonder, now that the Aussie-owned supermarkets have got a stranglehold and Lotto sales will go up, they have already said that they are going up.
So cap it at five million say?
No, I wouldn’t come up with a figure today, but I would say its time for us to review the ten year old gambling act and know this, of the gambling sorts, Lotto is the type of gambling that grows, not only in volume but in presentation according to the Ministry of Health of bad gambling behaviour.
Is 33.5 million dollars, that’s that jackpot, is that too much?
Yes, I certainly believe it is.
Seven point five million dollars is on this week, is that too much? Is that too high?
No, no, I would say is that I think that the 30 or 40 million dollar figure I actually think it is too high, but I do also think that the gambling act definitely needs to be reviewed because what will happen with the Aussie-owned supermarkets, you know what this is … [INTERRUPTS] … it’s going to expand gambling.
So Labour is going to stop Lotto at the supermarkets, Labour's going to cap the jackpot?
The supermarkets such as Pak ‘N’ Save already have Lotto, tell me where else in any other supermarket other than Countdown you can put a one-armed bandit on every checkout counter? No, no, you tell me…you can’t. So I’m saying that that represents a spread of gambling into the community and it’s time for us to review the Gambling Act, so now that the directors of the Lotteries Commission, I mean most of them are ‘Tories’, they probably think they are boasting profit.
Ok, I want to move to politics now, your criticisms of the Greens this year, we all know it, you called Gareth Hughes a ’molly-hawk’, you dismissed Russel Norman as an Aussie, this week you called them shrill for complaining about climate change, but every poll we have done shows that Labour can only govern with the Greens. Why are you attacking your friends? These are the guys that will get you across the line?
Erm, no, I’m first and only a Labour politician, a Labour politician and a Labour party needs to govern for New Zealand, it has to have appeal to the right and appeal to the left, the Green vote, that’s their responsibility from growing etc. Nowhere in my constitution am I paid or expected to go out and help John Minto, Hone Harawira, Winston Peters or the Greens, I’m here to expand the desirability of the main opposition party, Labour, and I will not cease doing that.
But the left block is required to win and in fact Russel Norman sat in that chair and said he would like to be Deputy Prime Minister in a Labour/Green government, would you work under him?
Well let's cut to the chase here, it is a display of naivety to use television to choose any particular cabinet position. The sovereignty rests with the voters. And I actually resent any suggestion that the voters don’t first make their choice, so I say to all of the coalition potential partners, do not undermine the ability of voters to choose, it reflects a level of snobbery.
Sure but would you work under Russel Norman? Would Shane Jones work under Russel Norman as Deputy Prime Minister of a Labour/Green government?
It‘s an academic question because today, unless the voters deliver both us and other potential coalition partners that result, I’m not even interested in contemplating an answer to him.
It’s a realistic scenario though, would you work under him or not?
No, no, no, the realistic scenario would be unless we get voters to flock to our cause etc and let's really cut to the chase here now, Russel also needs to remember here he is a co-leader there’s him and Metiria Turei, they need to sort out amongst themselves who has the sharpest elbows, Winston Peters who's to know what he wants, but do you hear of Winston Peters coming on your show demanding of John Key or Labour that he wants to be the Deputy Prime Minister? Do you?
Well no, but you won’t even say whether you will work with Russel Norman in a perfectly reasonable scenario? What are you up to? Are you on some sort of kamikaze mission here?
No, no, Russel is entitled to make what calls he likes, but the people that have to sovereignty are voters and our job is to grow our vote from 29 percent, 30 percent at least up to where Helen Clark was in 2005, 38 percent and close to 40 percent. That’s the mission of a Labour Party MP.
Let’s look at Winston Peters, because you brought him up before. Winston Peters in New Zealand First, could you fit in that party?
Well Winston and I are great mates but I have no invitation and I have no intention of going to sit by Brendan Horan and suddenly join up with Winston so the answer is no, but do I enjoy his company, are we both from the north, everybody knows that the truth.
Labour's going backwards, David Cunliffe is now in single figures, what sort of job do you think he has been doing?
We are who we are, we have our Rangatira David, we have our team etc and we have our policies and we just have to get out there and punch in such a way that Kiwis will embrace them.