Shane Jones jokes and sings as he leaves Parliament

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Last updated 19:06 21/05/2014
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Shane Jones had the House in stitches during his valedictory speech.

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Labour MP Shane Jones has said goodbye to Parliament with a few bars from Please release me and a characteristic speech full of rhetoric and jokes at his own expense.

In between he called on his fellow MPs to recognise New Zealand was a bicultural country and "to not untether our waka from that essential narrative entered into in the Treaty of Waitangi".

Speaker David Carter joked he had arrived half an hour early to ensure he had a seat in the packed House.

The public galleries gave Jones a standing ovation as he left for the last time with a "this is me, I’m out".

Jones had the House in stitches as he traced his history from the Far North to St Stephen’s School, Harvard University, the chair of the Maori Fisheries Commission and to nine years in Parliament.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell was his head prefect at St Stephen’s and Mana leader Hone Harawira was a fellow pupil.

"I was the altar boy and Hone nicked the cross," Jones said.

Former Labour prime minister Helen Clark had enticed him into politics, but his background meant he had always been a champion of business and free trade, he said.

Jones, who in recent months made it clear he was opposed to any Labour deal with the Green Party, said businesspeople were "lions in the boardroom and lambs in public".

They mistakenly thought that climate change was the "political province of Lotus eaters".

"They make that error and imperil their long-term profitability."

That Sir Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble, Ron Mark, Willie Jackson and John Tamihere were in the House to hear his valedictory speech spoke for the nature of his politics.

Jones admitted he had never grown to love door-knocking, and preferred to get his message out through the media.

As a result, some of his colleagues saw him as a "something of a headline hussy".

"I was big-picture man."

He said he had always been willing to front even when things were going badly for him, such as when Prime Minister John Key "in a fit of enthusiasm" had decided to release Jones’ credit card details.

They showed Jones, who had once been tipped as the first Maori prime minister, had booked adult movies on his ministerial credit card – a low point that wounded his career.

His advice to his replacement list MP, Kelvin Davis, was to avoid Parliament’s purchase cards. ‘‘Cash is king, bro’’.

A highlight of his political career was his unsuccessful tilt at Labour’s leadership last year, which he said was "liberating".

Nevertheless, he had to admit more people from Labour were coming to his farewell and seafood banquet at the Backbencher pub "than bloody well voted for me".

Earlier as his last day in Parliament began, Jones said he's got "no remorse about hopping on the other waka".

Jones also appeared to have fired one last shot at Labour leader David Cunliffe, saying he wished him all the best, but hinted David Shearer, whom Cunliffe ousted as leader, was not given the chance he deserved.

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Jones had warned that his valedictory speech to Parliament would be less reserved than his maiden speech as a "third-former" nine years ago.

"What I remember about the [maiden] speech is you had to give an early copy to Helen Clark who then handed it on to Margaret Wilson, who was the then speaker of the house, to ensure that it was of an acceptable quality," he said on Breakfast.

"As I looked back on it, it appears slightly wooden."

Jones announced his resignation last month from Parliament and the party he's represented as a list MP since 2005.

He is set to take up a government economic development role in the Pacific, focusing on fisheries - a role created by Foreign Affairs Minister and key National Party strategist Murray McCully.

The announcement was described by political pundits as a disaster for Labour. The party was shown to be in disarray when it became clear in the hours after the news broke, that key senior MPs in the Labour caucus had no knowledge of Jones' decision.

Today, Jones said he had no regrets about leaving Labour to take up a role with the Government.

"What's that term when you go to buy a car? Buyer remorse? No, I've disembarked from this waka and there's no remorse about hopping on the other waka," he said.

Jones said the role was still to be finalised, but discussions with McCully were progressing.

"It lies with Minister McCully to make the necessary announcements, but I've indicated I'm very keen. I've got both the energy and the connections.

"There are a host of major economic challenges in the Pacific, and working closely with our Pacific neighbours and ensuring that New Zealand's profile and New Zealand's influence as a force for good in the Pacific remains strong, and we continue to grow the momentum."

Among the people Jones said he would miss the most would be no one in his own caucus – but the media.

"I think they've acknowledged that I've always fronted up, and Lord knows I had various occasions where I did need to front up," the MP said.

"I think I've enjoyed the contact with the media. I was a chap who was lucky - I had both languages; English and Te Reo, and I think with speeches and communications with the media to the public is something that I will miss."

Among those occasions on which Jones said he needed to "front up" was a scandal after using a tax-payer funded credit card to purchase TV porn movies while staying in hotels.

But Jones potentially saved his most stinging shot, for last when he all but endorsed Shearer as the better Labour leader.

Jones said he didn't "want to curse anyone", but there were "some strong people coming through and I wish David Cunliffe all the best".

"We had our own competition race and I've also acknowledged that David Shearer in my view made a very credible contribution and New Zealanders were beginning to know him and possibly embrace him."

- Stuff

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