Loose cannon Shane Jones fires more shots, Ardern missing in action

I’m not sure if Shane Jones is deliberately trying to make things difficult for Jacinda Ardern, or is trying to establish himself as New Zealand’s version of Donald Trump (an arsehole popular enough to get elected), or is just getting out of control.

On Tuesday Jones made threats against a journalist who had criticised his conflict of interest as minister in charge of the Provincial Growth Fund – Hamish Rutherford “Minister of Regional Economic Development Shane Jones delights in announcing funding cash from the Provincial Growth Fund, but when he or his office face questions about the probity or merits of the fund, the response has bordered on hostile.” Shane Jones makes ‘chilling’ threats against journalist.

Yesterday in General Debate in Parliament he fired another shot at the journalist, threatened that the Government would ensure the SFO investigation of the National party over a donation was thorough, and also blasted the Spark CEO who made a disclosure as required by NZX rules.

This is a message to corporate New Zealand: do not arrogantly take upon yourselves the ability to influence foreign policy and make these unwise statements as Mr Simon Moutter did to the sharemarket, thus providing an opportunity for anxiety and stress for all of our exporters. Show judiciousness; do not go beyond your corporate writ. Wanderlust, you may be.

Jones has attacked CEOs and companies in the past, notably Air New Zealand.

How the bar has been set for the provincial champion to declare a conflict of interest. Has the Leader of the Opposition yet been interviewed by the Serious Fraud Office? Was the Leader of the Opposition interviewed by the police; more to the point, will he declare to the New Zealand public that he has been; and if that is the case, will he stand down? No. Where is this self-styled crusader of civic responsibility from Fairfax pummelling and pounding the other side of the House? Conspicuous silence from the media.

Another swipe at Rutherford. The media has not been silent on the announcement that the Police handed over the donation case to the Serious Fraud Office – but the SFO has not even said they will investigate yet, so obviously they won’t have interviewed Simon Bridges.

This is a very dangerous development in the integrity of our electoral system.

Ministers attacking journalists doing their job is not new, but Jones is threatening the integrity of the media, which is an essential component of our electoral system.

But, if he could actually do what he next threatens, that would be a particularly dangerous development on the integrity of both our democratic system and our judicial system.

Now, we’ve watched a pattern of this. We’ve watched a proud police officer be lampooned and suffer scurrilous allegations; he had done nothing wrong, yet he was pilloried, tainted, and stigmatised.

That’s talking about Wally Haumaha, who has been linked with NZ First. The State Services Commission found that Justice and Corrections had failed two complainants, and “A report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has found two instances where the high-ranking cop aggressively asserted authority and belittled staff from Ministry of Justice and Corrections…The report said Haumaha’s behaviour met the common understanding of bullying…The IPCA received a third complaint in August, and found Haumaha pressured officers to provide information that would help him defend allegations after taking advice from lawyers.” – High-ranking cop Wally Haumaha belittled and humiliated staff, police watchdog says

May all of that wrongdoing rest upon the head of the Leader of the Opposition, because he says he’s the Leader of the National Party but it’s just not his responsibility in terms of what the Serious Fraud Office is looking at.

I make a prediction: the Serious Fraud Office, once unwisely sicked by that side of the House on to our Leader, knows we will study every single step that they take, to ensure—to ensure, because it’s the National Party—it’s not whitewashed. We will ensure that happens, this incredibly serious and people may very well go to jail, because they won’t have offended the Cabinet Manual; they will have broken the law.

Paul Goldsmith (National) followed Jones in the General Debate:

Well, here I am, coming after Shane Jones, and I’m not quite sure what he actually said, but he seemed to say that they will ensure—presumably, “they” being the Government of the day—that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) does a thorough job on our leader. That would be an extraordinary statement to make. Is he now saying that he is going to guide the SFO, which is an independent statutory body on the police doing their work? He’s going to stand and guide the SFO as they do their work? What an extraordinary thing for a Cabinet Minister to say. I can’t believe he said they will ensure that the SFO does it well.

Newshub: Shane Jones makes outrageous claims about National Party donations probe in Parliament

New Zealand First Minister Shane Jones has outrageously weighed in on the investigation into National Party donations.

The extraordinary scenes in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon added to a string of New Zealand First ministerial mishaps in recent times.

Jones’ incredible comment about the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) probe into the Simon Bridges-led party was made under parliamentary privilege and therefore protected from threats of prosecution.

But the SFO is protected by a fundamental of New Zealand’s democracy known as ‘constabulary independence’, meaning politicians can’t get involved in how it chooses to uphold the law – it’s sacred.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already mildly rebuked Jones after his attack on Rutherford. Will she do anything about this latest outburst from Jones? Probably not much – she seems largely impotent when it comes to NZ First loose cannon MPs bringing the Government into disrepute.

Jones seems to be able to get away with whatever he likes, and he seems to be getting out of control – but Winston Peters is also not doing anything about Jones, publicly at least at by the way Jones continues to spray dirty bullets around it appears that Peters approves of this.

And Ron Mark is also joining the attacks, so it appears that it may be a deliberate NZ First strategy to improve their flagging support.

They may manage to get another percent or two, but at risk of dragging Labour down, especially if Ardern continues to appear to have no control over them.

Ardern has successfully become a champion of progressive celebrity style politics, but if she can’t manage the tough stuff and show some leadership over her much smaller coalition partner party she may find some of her support is not sustainable.

SFO investigating National Party donation

More problems for the National Party and Simon Bridges after a complaint made by ex-National MP Jami-lee Ross to the police has been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.

This is an investigation, not a finding, but it doesn’t look flash for Bridges or National.

Newsroom: SFO to investigate National donation allegations

The Serious Fraud Office will investigate allegations of electoral donation fraud levelled against the National Party and its leader Simon Bridges by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross.

Ross has claimed vindication over the news, but Bridges has expressed confidence his own hands are clean and called on party officials to fully cooperate with the SFO inquiry.

Police started looking into the allegations after Ross spoke to them last year, but now appear to have elevated the issue into specialist hands.

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, police said they had referred a complaint they received last October to the SFO, “in relation to the disclosure of political donations under the Electoral Act”.

“The complaint has been referred to the SFO as they hold the appropriate mandate to look further into matters raised by the investigation to date.”

Police said they could not comment on their own investigation while the SFO was looking into the allegations.

Also from Newsroom: Jami-Lee Ross rides again

The former National MP accused of bullying and cheating during his time in Parliament has written to all his Botany constituents asking not to be judged “on a month where personal and health-related matters became a distraction”.

The Serious Fraud investigation was made public yesterday in a two sentence statement from police:

Ross held a press conference claiming he had been doubted repeatedly but each time in this controversy had proven his critics wrong.

He’s a bit premature there, nothing has been proven about the donation yet.

David Parker’s SFO allegations

Yesterday under Parliamentary privilege Labour MP David Parker made allegations about undermining the Serious Fraud Office.

Radio NZ reports Parker raises Hotchin, SFO allegations

Labour MP David Parker has used parliamentary privilege to call for a deeper investigation into allegations arising from Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics.

He also told Parliament he had been informed of unsubstantiated claims about businessman Mark Hotchin, and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) inquiry into the collapse of Hanover Finance.

Details in the book resulted in a government inquiry into whether the minister in charge of the SFO at the time, Judith Collins, was involved in a campaign to undermine the then head of the SFO, Adam Feeley.

Ms Collins resigned as a minister at the time but has since been cleared of any wrongdoing by the inquiry.

However, serious questions remained, Mr Parker said in the House today.

He told Parliament two people had approached him making serious allegations about Mark Hotchin and the SFO investigation into him.

Video of Parker’s speech:

General Debate (draft Hansard transcript)

Speech – Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour)

Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour): There remains much to be investigated arising from the Nicky Hager book. The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security showed last week the politicisation of the SIS by the head of the SIS and the Prime Minister’s own staff in his office.

What was written off by the Prime Minister as a left-wing conspiracy during the election was proven to be true: underhand tactics being used by the Prime Minister and the SIS. National was cynical enough on the day of the release of that report to drop two others including the report by Justice Chisholm into Judith Collins.

That report found that Judith Collins did not undermine the Serious Fraud Office. It found that there was no evidence in that regard. It did not inquire into whether Judith Collins had been improper in respect of Oravida —whether she had a personal conflict of interest there, a financial one.

It did not inquire into whether it was proper of her to pass information about public servants to Slater and it did not inquire as to whether the other allegations as to undermining the Serious Fraud Office were correct. Those matters were all outside the terms of reference.

The report did not exonerate Judith Collins in respect of those other matters and the report does not exonerate anyone else in respect of what may have been happening in respect of the undermining of the Serious Fraud Office.

What do we now know? We know that thousands of dollars were being paid every month via Carrick Graham to Mr Slater. Presumably thousands of dollars were also being paid to Carrick Graham himself.

What were both of them doing? Well, they were both undermining the Serious Fraud Office.

Who were they doing it for? We do not yet know who they were doing it for. It looks like they may have been doing it for Mr Hotchin .

Why would Mr Hotchin have been interested in doing that? Well, he was being investigated as to whether he should be charged with criminal offences following the half a billion dollars of losses suffered through Hanover Finance failing. He was being investigated at the time by the Serious Fraud Office.

I have had two people make worrying allegations to me. One is a former staff member of the Serious Fraud Office who told me that at the time that the Serious Fraud Office commenced its investigation a former adviser to Hotchin contacted this person and said:

“Hotchin plays a rough game. You watch out. He will use underhand tactics to undermine the Serious Fraud Office and their staff.”

The second allegation I have had made to me was that Mr Hotchin used underhand tactics to take out some of the potential witnesses against him in respect of his conduct by Hanover Finance.

I cannot name either of those sources and I cannot prove those allegations to be true. They are both hearsay allegations to me but these allegations must be investigated.

We have seen in respect of the SIS matters that there was fire behind the smoke and in respect of these allegations we know that thousands of dollars were presumably being paid by Hotchin to Carrick Graham and Slater and Cathy Odgers in respect of their efforts to undermine the Serious Fraud Office.

What we do not know is whether those actions were criminal and whether there was a criminal conspiracy. I made a complaint to the police over 2 months ago in respect of that. The only information I have had back other than to inquire whether I had more evidence was a line in the Chisholm report to say that the allegations in respect of Judith Collins were not being looked to any further, but it looks like no further actions are being inquired into.

These are serious allegations. They must be looked seriously at by the authorities. We have seen the politicisation of the SIS.

We must make sure that the police have not been politicised. They were happy enough to inquire into the teapot tapes, to cooperate with the Prime Minister to deem Mr Ambrose guilty despite the fact that he had two arguable defences, and yet we do not have the police looking at these most serious allegations as to whether the other allegations in the Hager book are true.

Indeed, Mr Hager—and if it were not for his efforts none of the SIS stuff would have come out and none of this other stuff would have been investigated—is the one who is being raided. He is the one who has suffered search warrants and yet neither Mr Slater, Ms Odgers, Mr Hotchin, nor the others like Carrick Graham seem to have been investigated by the police, and I do not think that is good enough.

O’Sullivan on Whale Oil versus SFO

I agree and disagree with Fran O’Sullivan in We need to know who tried to fit up SFO boss.

The issue is too big to be swept under the carpet by mere politics and a focus on chasing whistleblowers instead of the real issues.

She’s right that the SFO/Feeley issue is too big to be swept under the carpet, but I think she’s wrong explaining the Rawshark hacking as “mere politics and a focus on chasing whistleblowers” – if political hacking is given tacit approval by police as well as journalists then “dirty politics” could get much dirtier.

And even on the Feeley/SFO issue she may be getting ahead of proceedings.

But while the police have been busy poking about in Hager’s affairs – hacking is, after all, a crime – they do not appear to have actively followed up on Acting Opposition Leader David Parker’s pre-election complaint over various actions disclosed in the Dirty Politics affair, including the alleged “SFO/Hanover Sting”.

This suggests to me a failure of prioritisation on the part of police chief Mike Bush and his team.

I believe he could start by requiring Odgers, Graham and Slater to say just who paid them for apparently trying to fit up Feeley.

Fran may be too close to this issue, having been included in the emails revolving around Rawshark. She wants journalists left alone but others “required to say”.

She is not happy with the Police “poking about in Hager’s affairs“, and may not be happy if the Police saw fit to poke around in her affairs and ‘require’ her to say things.

Fran also details a current inquiry into the SFO/Feeley issue.

Key’s response to the email was to announce an inquiry, which is headed by respected High Court judge Justice Lester Chisholm.

The Chisholm Inquiry’s terms of reference are to the point. It will investigate whether:

  • There is any evidence Ms Collins acted inconsistently with the conduct expected of a minister by undermining or attempting to undermine Mr Feeley’s tenure as director of the Serious Fraud Office.
  • Ms Collins provided information about Mr Feeley during his tenure as director of the Serious Fraud Office to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater or any other party not entitled to it.
  • Ms Collins inappropriately sought or received information about Mr Feeley from Slater or any other party.

It would also identify and report on any other relevant issues.

I think it makes sense for police to largely wait and see what the outcome of this inquiry is.It’s not as if there is urgency, Judith Collins is parked up on the back benches.

Justice Chisholm may or may not go far enough with his inquiry, but it should at least be a substantial starting point should a Police investigation prove justified.

Brendan Horan versus Winston Peters and Barry Soper

It was reported yesterday in NZ Herald that police had received fresh complaints against Brendan Horan regarding his mother’s estate.

Independent MP Brendan Horan says another complaint about him to police is “fantastic” as it gives him another chance to clear his name.

NewsTalk ZB this afternoon reported Police had received a complaint from Mr Horan’s brother Mana Ormsby that the former NZ First MP had inappropriately taken funds from his dying mother’s bank accounts.

Police earlier this month confirmed they were assessing a similar complaint from Mr Horan’s former boss NZ First Leader Winston Peters which was referred to them by the Serious Fraud Office .

This afternoon Mr Horan told the Herald he had not heard from Police today or in the two weeks since news of the initial complaint broke.

He said he would welcome the chance to speak with them if they chose to investigate the latest complaint.

Horan has also commented on Twitter, which resulted in an exchange with Barry Soper from Newstalk ZB.

Horan: I’ve been in my Mt Maunganui office all day and have not heard all from the Police about a new complaint. I welcome any investigation ASAP because another investigation will serve to clear my name yet again.

Soper: Who “cleared” you the “first” time?

Horan: The forensic investigation

Soper: Well that’ll come as a surprise to everyone associated with this case, with perhaps one exception: You!

Horan: I feel sorry for you Barry. Have a nice day.
Time for @barrysoper to put the audio online because he didn’t ask for comment and he didn’t ask any questions.

Soper: Why would I run audio of you hanging up on me?

Horan also suggested:

The reality is my speech Wednesday hit too close to the bone for a certain someone. Here’s the link http://inthehouse.co.nz/node/22718

The transcript of that speech is here: Brendan Horan blasts NZ First

Going by the Newstalk ZB report ( that attributes Soper)…

Police are looking into whether they will investigate Brendan Horan over a complaint laid by his brother.

They say they’re assessing a referral from the Serious Fraud Office, which will dictate whether there is an investigation.

At the moment, no official investigation has been launched.

It’s understood the former New Zealand First MP’s brother has made a complaint over money allegedly missing from his late mother’s bank account.

An earlier complaint was made by Winston Peters to the Serious Fraud Office who handed it on to the police.

Police confirm they are currently assessing the complaints to establish any criminality.

…the timing could be coincidental if it has just been referred to police by the Serious Fraud Office, who shouldn’t be influenced by Parliamentary speeches. I don’t think the SFO are likely to jump if Winston Peters prods them.

But Newstalk ZB is not entirely clear about the current complaint, whether it is via the SFO or from Horan’s brother.

Nevertheless, the Twitter exchange between Soper and Horan is curious.