Shane Jones makes ‘chilling’ threats against journalist

Minister of Self Promotion Shane Jones has made disturbing threats against Stuff journalist Hamish Rutherford.

Rutherford:  Bunny boiler jokes aside, Shane Jones’ threats could be chilling

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.

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.

It is extraordinary for Jones to make ‘unethical’ accusations and threaten to use parliamentary privilege to say more.

This all came after I published a story on Sunday, which revealed that Jones sat in a meeting and provided reassurances to his ministerial colleagues about a project he had declared a conflict of interest in.

That project, Manea, Footprints of Kupe, a proposed cultural centre in Opononi, is in line to get up to $4.6 million in taxpayer funding.

The story also highlighted what I believe were inconsistencies about his statements about what exactly his interest was and whether his statements to Parliament were, with the benefit of hindsight, accurate.

Jones’ office tried to shut down questions on the project in 2018 and Jones has equivocated about whether he knew that the project’s supporters were using his name as they tried to apply for taxpayer funding in 2015.

Jones has drawn more attention to all of this rather than shut it down by trying to scare Rutherford off.

The fact that no-one from the Government has properly shot down Jones’ threat to malign me in Parliament will not deter me.

But it should be a chilling warning of the potential consequences for anyone planning to question this Government’s integrity.

Where does Jacinda Ardern stand on this?

RNZ:  Jacinda Ardern says Shane Jones’ remark on journalist is not appropriate

The prime minister says attacking a journalist in the House using parliamentary privilege is “ill-advised”.

Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report it would not be appropriate for Mr Jones to launch an attack on Rutherford.

“Ultimately I have, when asked, said that I did not believe that would be appropriate, and that’s my advice to Mr Jones.”

That really put Jones in his place – a place where he seems to be able to do and say as he pleases.