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Shane Jones Interviewed by Duncan Garner

'THE NATION'
Shane Jones
Interviewed by Duncan Garner

Duncan For 70 years from 1935 Labour's alliance with the Ratana Church meant it had a stranglehold on the Maori seats in parliament, but six years ago the formation of the Maori Party ended that, yet even now Labour is well ahead in the party vote among Maori. The latest 3News Reid Research poll shows more than 43% of Maori voters support Labour, more than 26% support National and just 15% support the Maori Party. So Labour must be doing something right to win that much support, and something wrong if it of course can't win the seats. The party's Maori Affairs spokesman Shane Jones is with me now. Good morning Mr Jones. Thanks for coming in. Still a lot of support there in that poll. Why can't you win these seats?

Shane Jones – Labour MP
You know there's two elections going on here. There's what you might call an equity election, that’s to do with the policies of the Labour Party and the other is what Maoris like. They love personality. And the reality is that after the Seabed and Foreshore where we got a hammering, if we're going to appeal to our people we've gotta go beyond policy in dealing with Maori. They’ve gotta see something reflected in us that relevant to the identity question, and where they think they're going as a people in Aotearoa. And they’ve gotta be confident that we are prepared to stick by our kaupapa, stick by the originating influences and the foundation influences which actually cemented Labour with Maori in the first place.

Duncan And you have been termed you know this – if I can use the term – the 'Big Brown Hope' before in the Labour Party. You haven’t won a seat, and it's now or never for you isn't it?

Shane Yeah well the reality is I stood in an area in the Far North and found myself to be quite popular etc. I was content to be a List MP, but in rehabilitating myself from the inevitable dramas of last year I decided to have a solid crack at Tamaki Makaurau.

Duncan So why is it so important that you win a seat?

Shane Oh I think it's important for me to establish my credentials with my own people, that’s the first thing, and the second thing that securing a seat back like Tamaki Makaurau for Auckland, I mean it's the buzz of where Maoridom really are in terms of where so many of our young people are growing up. It's really connecting us with our roots.

Duncan But you’ve laid down a bit of a challenge too haven’t you, because you said if you don’t win you'll reconsider your future. Are you genuinely saying you might walk away from politics?

Shane No no, but I did say that we don’t want to suffer the drama that happened with Kelvin Davis. I mean there was a perception that emerged towards the end of the bi-election where Hone was able to say hey you vote for Kelvin you get Labour, you vote for Hone you get Hone and Kelvin, and I felt that that was a bit disingenuous and I don’t want that drama going forward into the election. You have a clear choice. You got for Papa Pita – Willie Jackson hasn’t got the courage or the wit to stand – or Shane Jones.

Duncan So if you win the seat you have said that you want to play a bigger role in the party?

Shane Sure.

Duncan What sort of role?

Shane Oh no I think that – there's a couple of things that I'd like to think we can do going forward etc. Number one is never ever be afraid to project why we really exist, but secondly is, there has been a misapprehension grow that we the Labour Party or parties of the left, are parties of big government, and the country doesn’t have an appetite for big government. The country doesn’t have an appetite for example of a level of expenditure or a perception that we're not good stewards of the resources, and we must defang that, because unfortunately I think John Key and them have positioned us, and the public don’t seem to accept that Dr Cullen for example left our finances in a good position. That sort of stuff.

Duncan So just back to my question. If you wanted to play a greater role, define that greater role for me.

Shane Oh no I certainly want to recover my position on to the front bench, but anything beyond that it's with the caucus and it's for the future mate.

Duncan Are you rehabilitated in your own mind with the caucus? I mean are you still getting much stick from let's say some of the more feminist movement in the party given – I'm talking about the pawn here obviously if no one understands.

Shane Well you'd need to ask them bro, I think with the public that I'm pretty popular, and you know I'm a person who's very optimistic, and everything that I see about our own people I don’t like to emphasise the politics of bleakness or despair, and I like to see the politics of hope, and I think that I'm a very hopeful character. Whether or not I'm popular with everyone in the Labour Party, there might be a residual element but that’s life.

Duncan Do you feel that there is a way back on to the front bench for you?

Shane Oh, without a doubt.

Duncan Tell me about the state of the caucus at the moment.

Shane Well the polls aren’t flash, but we shouldn’t deny the reality of these polls. I don’t feel that they're taking us to where Bill English ended up. I do think that they're in the early 30s etc, but we've gotta try and emulate what Helen Clark did in 96, she went from sort of 18 to 28 in three weeks' time, and we've got to avoid what she did in 2002, down from 52 to 42.

Duncan So why is Phil Goff not connecting?

Shane I think that part of what's happened is that you guys have whipped that horse long and hard, and I think we've got to the point Duncan where the media probably need to let the voters decide now, and not try and eclipse or usurp the role of the voters. At the end of the day the voters are gonna give us a tick. No, no, in fairness to Phil, fairness to Phil, very industrious, very professional and he is a member of an institution over 20 to 30 years and he's up against a guy who's not an institutionalised politician which John Key holds himself as being someone who's anti politics.

Duncan But don’t you think that is now a weakness for Phil Goff that he is institutionalised, that he is robotic? Would you have concerns that he's a bald tyre if you like on a car, he's been around too long?

Shane No. No, no, it's not fair to hit Phil like that. The difficulty that we've got is that he can't do it by himself. Labour is a team and those of us who have profile etc have got to stand up and do the heavy lifting as well. It's not realistic to expect the presidential contest to deliver everything that Labour needs to achieve in order to move forward.

Duncan And is Goff projecting those core values that you talked about at the start of this interview, successfully.

Shane Mm, oh no I think he…

Duncan Successfully?

Shane No I think you’ve gotta be fair here mate, he is a creature of our party. He has been there a lot longer than I have, as a young man etc, so those underlying values of civil society, social equity, progress, trying to address …

Duncan And he's held a position, he's sold state assets, now he wants to protect state assets. He's had different positions on lots of issues, that’s affecting him isn't it?

Shane Yeah but I mean politicians bro, they reflect the vicissitudes of the party.

Duncan Well no Key hasn’t unfortunately for you guys, because he came in without that baggage. Would an MP without baggage and history perhaps be easier for a Labour Party going forward?

Shane An MP who wants to go forward etc in a prominent role in the party needs the support of their caucus, and the first way to kill any support in the caucus is warble indiscriminately on television.

Duncan Now there are suggestions that Mr Goff offered somehow his resignation. What's your understanding of what happened?

Shane No, well given that I'm not on the front bench…

Duncan No, but what's your understanding of …

Shane No, I genuinely don’t know, and I think I know how that story may have made it into the public.

Duncan You are suggesting people in your caucus are leaking are you?

Shane There's no way that that story should ever ever have got into the public etc. And if there is someone who has made that leak then they should be made to pay the price.

Duncan And you're suggesting someone in the caucus has leaked?

Shane No I have no evidence that a person in the caucus has leaked, I certainly know it wasn't me cos I'm not on the front bench, but the fact to wake up when you're trying to win votes and to read in the newspaper such a story about our leader, it causes my Slavic blood to boil.

Duncan So how did it become public in your mind?

Shane I genuinely don’t know. I presume that an indiscreet remark or something like that.

Duncan An indiscreet MP you mean?

Shane No I can't say it would be an MP.

Duncan Well no journalists were in that caucus or front bench meeting.

Shane I know of no discussion of that nature in our caucus.

Duncan Now suggestions I'm getting out of Wellington being around the press gallery is that there are some camps now starting to set up in the Labour caucus camp. Cunliffe we'll call one and Camp David Parker the other. What have you heard?

Shane No, no no I don’t think so. I think that both of them are very ambitious and they’ve got a lot to offer the Labour Party etc.

Duncan Does Cunliffe have leadership qualities?

Shane Well what he needs to do at the moment for all of us, and that’s what he's promising he's gonna do for us, is go and sell our economic policy. I understand David to have said on numerous occasions he's a team player and he's gonna tautoko or support Annette King and Phil Goff. Now what happens in the future we need to talk to him about that, but there's really no – there's no scope for this fratricide or there's no scope for feeding the media's appetite in wanting to turn this election into a Labour Party leadership fight, it's a joke.

Duncan Have you given up your leadership ambitions?

Shane Yeah no, I was – well I was flattered to be compared to JT and Winston etc. But those ambitions of mine have dimmed.

Duncan Dimmed or gone?

Shane Oh, no they're at a very low ebb.

Duncan Have they gone?

Shane Oh that'll depend on how well I do in Tamaki Makaurau.

Duncan So if you do well in Tamaki Makaurau you're potentially putting your hand up one day to lead the party?

Shane Mm, no, I'm just gonna win Tamaki Makaurau first bro.

Duncan Okay, Shane Jones, thank you for joining me in the studio this morning.

ends

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