There was no surprise that Shane Jones replied to questions about a conflict of interest with bombast.
That is business as usual for him.
There is a degree of rough and tumble in journalism and, if you’re going to give it out, you have to take it.
But this week vague claims were made which were quite troubling.
On Monday, in an interview with Morning Report, Shane Jones, possibly the most forceful personality currently in New Zealand’s Parliament, described me as a “bunny boiler”.
Whatever he means by that, I would have happily let that pass. Much of the reaction has been fun. I never imagined I would have to explain those sort of cultural references to my parents, themselves avid RNZ listeners. . .
But Jones also described me as “unethical”, a more serious claim which he has not clarified, despite implying that he might use parliamentary privilege to say more – an ancient right MPs have to say literally whatever they want without legal repercussions, so long as they say it in the House.
It is an ancient and important right. But I understood, at its core, was the need to promote free speech, not to stifle it.
This has led to a difficult couple of days. I have not been able to defend myself as I have not known what the accusations might be.
Jones (or any MP) could say anything at all about me, or you, with no legal comeback.
After Question Time and an urgent debate, it still is not clear. Shane Jones did not use his privilege, but he could do, at any time. . .
That politicians who resort to personal attack don’t usually have anything substantive to counter criticism will be little comfort.
This is an abuse of power, no more and no less and one which the union representing journalists ought to be condemning.
But did you hear the union roar? I haven’t heard, or read, so much as a whisper from E TŪ, which represents journalists, or any other union.
Nor have I come across anything but a mild that’s not appropriate from Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party which is supposed to stand up for workers.
If I’ve missed the union’s defence of a colleague and condemnation of his attacker, please correct me.
If there hasn’t been one, it is yet another example of unions putting politics before the people they purport to represent.
Disclosure: Hamish Rutherford’s parents are friends and I’ve known him for several years. I was an admirer of his work for the depth of his research, understanding of issues and non-partisan approach long before I met him.