Shane Jones again becomes an unpredictable Labour liability

Talking Politics

Last updated 09:04 30/10/2012

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Every few months, Labour MP Shane Jones makes headlines, and usually for the wrong reasons.

OPINION: Jones is still suspended from Labour's shadow line-up while the Auditor-General investigates his role in the Yan immigration affair.

Yet like some rogue member of the Afghan National Army, Jones has begun shooting at the potential allies that Labour will need to form a coalition government.

For the past fortnight, Jones has been feuding publicly with the Greens over their support for a recent parody (made by Greenpeace) of a Sealord commercial.

As someone who worked briefly for them a few years ago, I can vouch for how irritating the Greens can be when they're in whimsical mode.

The Greenpeace parody, however, had genuine substance. It tackled claims made in the original ad about the state of the yellowfin tuna fishery, and it criticised fishing methods that threaten tuna stocks and endanger other sea life.

In response, Jones accused the Greens and Greenpeace of economic vandalism for damaging the Sealord brand, and for allegedly being anti-Maori and anti-worker in criticising a Maori-owned company.

For good measure, Jones also accused the Greens of 'hypocrisy' for supporting Maori communities against the potential environmental impact of deep-sea oil exploration, while criticising the environmental impact of Sealord's activities.

Jobs, Jones concluded, were more important than the fate of 'some obscure ecosystem'.

It seemed at best misplaced energy by Jones. Few people would accept that a parody really poses a major threat to Sealord's profit margins, and to the job security of its workers.

Moreover, ensuring that fishing stocks are properly managed seems just as important to the long-term job security of Sealord workers as the company's short- term profits.

Sustainability would also seem consistent with the principles of kaitiakitanga, or guardianship, that Jones appeared to be ignoring entirely.

Inevitably, other commentators have also queried Jones' credentials as a film critic, after his viewing of dubious movies in his hotel room, at the taxpayer's initial expense.

A few observers also felt moved to speculate whether Jones was really making more of a job application for a life after politics than a serious political statement, given that Sealord made a $10,000 donation to Jones' campaign shortly before the last election.

Undaunted, Jones returned to the same fray a few days ago, after Greens MP Gareth Hughes moved an amendment to copyright legislation - an amendment that would protect parody and satire from being muzzled by copyright owners.

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In response, Jones described Hughes' initiative as 'pissing on business'. No matter that parody and satire are prized freedoms in any healthy democracy.

To Jones, protecting corporations (and presumably politicians) from satire seemed a more worthwhile goal.

To Labour leader David Shearer, these sideshows must be supremely frustrating.

Whenever the Key government is under pressure, one of his caucus colleagues can be reliably counted on to provide a media diversion.

In this case, the tone and content of Jones' comments put a question mark over the compatibility of Labour's social conservatives with the Greens in any future government. Serious stuff.

Whatever else may be said about National's Tau Henare, at least with him there are none of the 'truth in packaging' qualms that many Labour supporters must be feeling about Jones.

- Kapi-Mana News


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