When Jacinda Ardern declared hers would be an open and transparent government this probably wasn’t what she was meaning:
Controversial Cabinet Minister Shane Jones told a forestry awards ceremony they needed to vote for him or miss out on the billions he’s handing out for provincial growth, it has been alleged.
One person present labelled Jones’ comments as an inducement to “bribery” and another thought the minister – responsible for forestry and the $3 billion provincial growth fund – was “buying votes”.
But Jones says New Zealand can expect him to remind it over the next 12 months that votes for New Zealand First are needed to ensure it continues to fulfil promises in its coalition agreement with Labour.
“When you get a retail politician like myself – a son of the north – you’ve never going to take the politics out of the politicians.” . .
There’s politics and there’s politicking and then there’s blatant vote-for-us-or-else which looks very close to bribery.
Another person who paid close attention to Jones’ speech said he was angry and shocked at the political approach.
“Some of the things he said I didn’t particularly like. [It was] he had this big pot of gold so make sure you keep voting for me. There were direct comments along those lines.”
A third person who objected to Jones’ comment said it detracted from the intent of the evening, which was to celebrate excellence in forestry.
“It should never have been a political rally, which is what he made it. He was saying ‘if you don’t vote for me, you won’t get any share of the billion dollars’. He said you’ve only got a few months of me here, so you’d better vote.
“It’s just bribery. I thought that was pretty disgusting.”
Another person present said: “It wasn’t a political forum. He didn’t do himself any good. He just made a complete idiot of himself.”
Those interviewed did not want to be named, citing the influence of Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund and concerns speaking openly could have a personal and financial impact.
Whether it was meant as a threat or not, these people have not only interpreted what Jones said as vote-for-us-or-else, they’re scared about the consequences of speaking out.
What he said is bad enough. That he said it so openly is worse. It shows that he thinks he’s immune from any censor by both his leader and the Prime Minister that ought to follow this behavior but won’t.
Reacting to the Herald piece, Taxpayers’ Union Spokesman Jordan Williams said:
“This is truely banana republic stuff. A Minister telling an industry sector that they need to pony up with support, or else lose taxpayer funded lavish.”
”It is shocking, and belongs in Namibia, not New Zealand.”
“Even for Shane Jones this is breathtakingly shameless. This not only sours the reputation of the current Government, it sours the reputation of our whole political establishment. It is pork barrel politics in its true meaning.”
“Taxpayers are relying on the Prime Minister to prevent Shane Jones dragging us down the transparency indexes. Now is the time for her to show whether she demands western democracy standards of her Ministers, or whether her junior coalition partner wields the true power and can do what they like with public funds.”
Sadly the junior coalition partner does wield the true power and its members not only can and do do what they like with public funds, at least one is open that they’re vote-buying with them.